Jenn Stuczynski: "Are you Experienced?"


It is Saturday afternoon, and the track is getting the final check over for the Reebok Boston Indoor Games. Jenn Stuczysnki, the American record holder in the pole vault, sat down with your favorite blogger on Friday afternoon to catch up on her summer of experience, from a disc issue, to an achilles issue that kept her from performing at her bst in Osaka. Now, injury-free, Jenn has jumped fifteen feet, fifteen feet three and then 4.71 meters, the highest jump in the world so far this year at fifteen feet, five and one half inches.

Jenn Stuczynski has huge natural talent. She has developed dramatically in the vault-her first season going thirteen feet, seven, coming into the national indoor and continuing her quick rise to the top of American women's pole vault ranks.

Jenn Stuczynski is more confident this year. After 2007, where she experienced the highs and lows of an elite athlete all in one year, Stuczynski seems to be a little more relaxed, and the experiences of the agony and ecstasy of an athletic career, all in on year, seem to have helped her.

Stuczynski started her sports life with softball. By the end of high school, Jenn was the New York State champion at the pentathlon. In college, it was basketball, as she graduated with the college record as the all-time leading scorer in basketball.

It was near her graduation that local coach Rich Suhr, himself a sixteen and a half foot vaulter, spoke to her on campus. He challenged Jenn to see if she could do something not in her comfort zone-learn to pole vault. Suhr came to this conclusion about Stuczynski when he witnessed her athleticism in a pick up basketball game with men. Jenn was tough. Suhr asked her if she had ever considered vaulting.

After just over a year as a vaulter, Jenn won her first national championships, held in Boston's Reggie Lewis Center. Jenn amazed and shocked the pole vault community with her win and quick rise to elite vaulting.

On May 20, 2007, after a lethargic warm up, Jenn Stuczynski broke the American record of one Stacy Dragila, who had held the AR for the past eleven years. Jenn's 15-10.5 inches jump was an era ending event-yet, it was witnessed by fewer than fifty fans as the majority of fans at the time were watching Meseret Defar in the two mile. " The first American record surprised me. It showed me that I can not judge how good I will jump at an event after just the warmup." Jenn opined after discussing the incident on Friday afternoon. Dragila, who competed that day, was warming up and did not witness Jenn's jump. " I had been pretty nervous about this meet with Stacy," noted Jenn, reflecting months later on her first American record.

Two weeks later, Jenn Stuczynski, in top form, had the night all athletes dream of--" I knew I could break the record at the Reebok Games," noted Stuczynski. That night, with a sell out crowd, Jenn Stuczynski cleared 4.88 meters to become the first American women over sixteen feet and the second best women pole vaulter of all time, tied with Russia's Svetlana Feofanova, and only Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva in front of her historic jump.

After that, it was a win at the U.S. nationals and then a trip to Europe. And the dream began to unravel. " I hurt my back, actually a disc problem, so we went to Germany to get some treatment," noted Jenn as she discussed her difficult summer. " It felt better about and I got a few jumps in, then I hurt my achilles just before Osaka."

" I was taped up at Osaka and I qualified fine. I just hoped that, Okay, if my achilles will stand up, I will be fine in the final...but as I started to warm up for the finals, I knew that it just was not going to work....I had to tell my coach that I needed to rest, and I knew it was over..I was disappointed. "

Reflecting on that certain summer, Jenn Stuczynski seems to realize that those are the breaks. She is healthy now, and she has added exercises to her regimen for both the back and her legs. " All is feeling good now, and I have had three good competitions so far this season."

The challenges of an elite athlete are many. Part of what makes a champion is their ability to overcome those challenges and find a way to compete and train with all of the distractions of modern life. Stuczynski, who competes for adidas and Team Nutrilite, juggles the training, traveling and competing as well as sponsor duties. " I filmed a commercial last week and the filming of the commercial was fun, but tough. The director runs the whole show, you have to be ready to jump anytime he say so. That could mean a jump every few minutes or one, and then a thirty minute break. " The commercial, for Nutrilite, will be shown on Sunday during the Reebok Boston Indoor Games broadcast. (To check out the commercial-very cool, click

The goal this year, for many athletes in our sport is Beijing. One thinks that challenges in life happen for a reason. Tonight, as Jenn Stuczynski warms up, with one of the most rigorous programs this track observer has ever seen, it is obvious that Jenn is a very special athlete.

Stuczynski is athletically talented. She is also mentally tough as nails. Her coach, Rick Suhr, has built her technique and mental toughness all at the same time. Their training site, a quonset hut with a one hundred foot tunnel, has little heat. This ramshackle training site is not to be discounted--it is one of the reasons why Stuczynski is the best vaulter in North America, and should challenge a couple of Russian vaulters in Beijing this coming summer.

When speaking to Rick Suhr, a man of few words, but of much mental strength, this blogger remembered one comment: " An athlete who believes in their regimen, and themselves, even if the program is mediocre, is a much better athlete than one who does not believe in a much better regimen or program."

So much of track and field in particular, and sports in general is about that fusion of scientific knowledge and its practical application.

Jenn Stuczynski is ready for 2008. She has faced the bad times, the challenging times, and she has had great times. Some people, to misquote a famous poet, settle for the gutters, while others yearn for the stars. Jenn Stuczynski , the current American record holder in the women's pole vault is shooting for the stars this year.

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