Jenn Stuczynski Where Does She go from Here? , by Larry Eder, release by USATF

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My first appreciation of the fact that Jenn Stuczynski was a pole vault goddess when she cleared 4.88 meters ( that is sixteen feet) at the Reebok Grand Prix, New York in 2007. I first recognized that she was a champion, when after the nightmare in Osaka, where everything went wrong, in her first World Outdoor, Stuczynski regrouped, and ended up with the silver medal in Beijing, one year later. True champions rise from the memories of bad experiences, and Jenn Stuczynski, in her short career, has experienced both the highs and lows of being an elite athlete.

The pole vault is track & field's answer to five card stud. A successful vaulter must have huge physical talents: however, her mental talents must be just as dominating!

Yelena Isinbayeva is such an example. It is not only her dominating physicality that puts her ahead of all of the other women vaulters, it is her mental toughness and her ability to totally dominate tactically the event. Isinbayeva's new coaching relationship with Vitaly Petrov, the former coach of Sergei Bubka, took two years for her to reach her next level--she is confident, and she is looking for competition. I believe that competition will come from Jenn Stuczynski.

Stuczysnki can be that good, someday. And someday is not far off. Her absolute gamble for everything at the U.S. Olympic Trials showed that: on the last attempt, she either made it or was off the team. After she made, it, she upped her American record! I remember watching her gamble all on one jump, in conditions that were, chancy at best. That is what a champion athlete does, and does, and does.

In a recent conversation with an elite sports psychologist, I was told that in any Olympic final, there are three, perhaps five, athletes who might possess all of the skill sets to become an Olympic champion. That makes a lot of sense, on many levels.

In the pole vault, on the women's side, Isinbayeva and Stuczysnski are the two most dominant vaulters ( apologies to Svetlana Feofanova) in this time period. Look at Stacy Dragila, the Joan Benoit Samuelson of the women's pole vault, a women who trail blazed for the pole vault before many of the young women vaulting now knew the event existed. The class she shows, and the mental toughness that she shows, overcoming several surgeries, to continue to improve in 2009, is not only inspiring, it is an example of what elite athletes at all levels need to be dominating factors in their events.

Yelena Isinbayeva is such an example. It is not only her dominating physicality that puts her ahead of all of the other women vaulters, it is her mental toughness and her ability to totally dominate tactically the event. Isinbayeva's new coaching relationship with Vitaly Petrov, the former coach of Sergei Bubka, took two years for her to reach her next level--she is confident, and she is looking for competition. I believe that competition will come from Jenn Stuczynski.

Stuczysnki can be that good, someday. And someday is not far off. Her absolute gamble for everything at the U.S. Olympic Trials showed that: on the last attempt, she either made it or was off the team. After she made, it, she upped her American record! I remember watching her gamble all on one jump, in conditions that were, chancy at best. That is what a champion athlete does, and does, and does.

In a recent conversation with an elite sports psychologist, I was told that in any Olympic final, there are three, perhaps five, athletes who might possess all of the skill sets to become an Olympic champion. That makes a lot of sense, on many levels.

In the pole vault, on the women's side, Isinbayeva and Stuczynski are the two most dominant vaulters ( apologies to Svetlana Feofanova) in this time period. Look at Stacy Dragila, the Joan Benoit Samuelson of the women's pole vault, a women who trail blazed for the pole vault before many of the young women vaulting now knew the event existed. The class she shows, and the mental toughness that she shows, overcoming several surgeries, to continue to improve in 2009, is not only inspiring, it is an example of what elite athletes at all levels need to be dominating factors in their events.

At the recent Reebok BIG meeting, Rick Suhr, coachi of Jenn Stucyznski, noted that Jenn is reaching the workout levels where she can make those dreams of a world record a reality. Ms. Isinbayeva is not going to make it easy for her. But, then, my friend, that is why track & field is a sport. In the pole vault, like all of athletics, it is all about the competition!


USATF Release: The Royal Highness of the Women's Pole Vault, Jenn Stucznyski,

by Jill Geer, USATF

Her Royal "Highness", Jenn Stuczynski, looks for another national title
BOSTON - The reigning Royal Highness of the women's pole vault, Jenn Stuczynski won her first career national title at the 2005 USA Indoor Championships at the Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center. In Boston this weekend at the 2009 edition of the meet, she's looking for her fourth indoor national title, seventh national title overall and possibly another American record at what has proven to be one of her favorite venues.

She's also looking for an Indoor Visa Championship to go along with the outdoor overall Visa Championship she won in 2008. She likely will enter the meet atop the Visa Championship Series point standings, with 1,197 points.

When Stucyznski won the women's vault at the 2005 USA Indoor Championships with a clearance of 4.35m/14-3.25, her coach had to tell announcers who she was and how to pronounce her name. (It's Stuh-ZINN-ski). A basketball player at tiny Roberts Wesleyan college in Rochester, N.Y., the nearly 6-foot-tall Stuczynski was discovered by vaulting coach Rick Suhr, whose enclave of vaulters in upstate New York was famous for practicing in an unheated Quonset hut.

Since then, she has become a household name not just in women's vaulting, but in all of track and field. Now 27 years old, Stuczynski rose quickly through the ranks of her event, winning the 2006 USA Outdoor title and the 2007 USA Indoor and Outdoor crowns. She broke out from the shadow of pioneering women's pole vault icon Stacy Dragila when she broke Dragila's American record outdoors in 2007, topping out at 4.88 meters, which converts to 16 feet even.

In 2008, Stuczynski got her season off to a great start by winning the silver medal at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain. She continued to make American records outdoors a way of life, breaking her own record at the adidas Track Classic in Carson, California (4.90m/16-0.75) and improving it to 4.92m/16-01.75 at the Olympic Trials.

It was at the Olympic Trials that Stuczynski's Olympic dreams stood on the precipice. By the time she took her first jump of the competition, at 4.60m/15-1.25, only two other athletes remained. Stuczynski missed her first two attempts at the height, and if she missed her third, there would be no Beijing. She not only cleared it, but went on to break her American record. Her clearance made her the #2 vaulter of all time, behind only world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia, and gave her the women's outdoor Visa Championship.

In Beijing, she cemented her status by taking the silver medal with a clearance of 4.80m/15-9, behind Isinbayeva's gold-medal, world-record jump of 5.05m/16-6.75, continuing an exciting rivalry in women's track and field and introducing Stuczynski to a new level of stress-management.

"You have to go through the Trials and you have to qualify, first, in the U.S., and that's stressful," Stuczynski recalled earlier this year. "As you know, I was on my third attempt at the opening height (at the Olympic Trials). I almost had a chance of not going. Then you go to the Olympics and the whole experience is mind-blowing. Until you've been in it, you really don't understand it."

Stuczynski understands winning, and her 2009 indoor season is off to a great start, winning all three Visa Championship Series meets - the 102nd Millrose Games, Reebok Boston Indoor Games and Tyson Invitational. She has taken attempts at American-record heights at all three meets, and at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games at "The Reggie," she finally took the indoor AR from Dragila by clearing 4.82m/15-9.75.

Yet even the most dominant American of the last three seasons has to overcome doubts on the runway. "I didn't know if I was going to do well," she said after her indoor American record. "I didn't have a feeling about it going into this meet. It was a big question mark. I think it was a relief. It's a mental game you play with yourself. I've tried this so many times (to break the record) and I wanted to make it today."

At the USA Indoor Championships, Stuczynski will face a field that includes the resurgent Dragila, who at age 37 is competing in her final season. Dragila has been second to Stuczynski at each Visa championship Series meet in 2009, including a jump of 4.61m/15-1.5 at Millrose.

But if Stuczynski is on form, there is no American who can catch her.

Now the question is: how high can she go?

** *
For more information about the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships or to purchase tickets, log onto www.visachampionshipseries.com or www.usatf.org. For questions regarding tickets, please call (317) 713-4680. USATF welcomes you to purchase tickets with your Visa Card. Visa is the only credit card accepted by USATF.

For more on the sport, please click on http://www.american-trackandfield.com

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