The Buffalo News polled sports staffers as to the top 10 male and female athletes from Western New York. Rick Suhr, a former New York high school champion wrestler and rising pole vault coach, noticed her playing pickup basketball at Roberts Wesleyan College and saw the makings of an elite vaulter. Strong and agile at 6-feet-0, Stuczynski took instantly to the sport and was a national champion less than a year later.
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Olympic gold medalist and American record holder indoor and outdoor in the pole vault, Jenn Suhr, has just set an indoor world record of 5. Perfection—a term which should not be used loosely—is the only way to describe Suhr's ascending march to the record. She did not have a single miss in her attempts at 4. The record height was an increase in Suhr's personal best under any conditions by over four inches. Suhr did attempt 5. The new world record clearance must have certainly rattled the cage of Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia, the former indoor record holder and current outdoor record holder at 5. Isinbayeva, known as the "Queen of the Vault" has not competed during the indoor season and in her most recent appearances has begun to show signs of a typical late-career decline. Perhaps Suhr's challenge to the queen's throne will stir Isinbayeva to a firmer defense mode as competition now moves outdoors—and ultimately to the Outdoor World Championships at Moscow in August.
By the age of 26, Fredonia's Jennifer Stuczynski Suhr had already accomplished far more than most people will even dream of in a lifetime. Stuczynski Suhr made her hometown beam with pride and drew national attention after she picked up that coveted honor by finishing second in the world in the women's pole vault event at the Beijing Summer Olympic Games in Stuczynski Suhr grew up in Fredonia and enjoyed playing sports like volleyball, basketball and soccer, golf and softball before making the move to track and field during her senior year, where she claimed a state title in pentathlon. She also found time to participate in track, winning NCCAA titles in javelin, the meter hurdles and, of course, the pole vault. She holds school records in that event, the meter hurdles, the javelin, high jump, meter hurdles, the 4 x relay and the 4x relay. In the spring of , while a senior at Roberts Wesleyan, she joined forces with pole-vault coach Rick Suhr, who had already mentored two national high school champions, and the march to Olympic glory began. Thanks to Suhr's superb coaching skills and Stuczynski Suhr's hard work, dedication and drive for nothing less than perfection, she rose to the top of the sport, becoming the U. National Indoor Champion in and and the U. National Outdoor Champion in , , and and earned the ranking of second in the world, with only world-record holder Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva in front of her.
Sixteen years ago, when track and field authorities concluded that women could pole-vault without breaking their necks, Jenn Stuczynski was a year-old in Fredonia, N. Now, assuming she makes the United States team, and she should, she will be a medal contender this summer in the pole vault in the Beijing Olympics. Her second try at the record came close. In an interview Thursday, Stuczynski gave the impression that for her, pole-vaulting was hypnotic and that she was a prisoner of its vagaries. Consider her responses to questions.