Concentrating on the Pole Vault, Jenn Suhr goes back to go higher, by Larry Eder (from RBR Archives 2016)


Suhr_Jenn-nbGP14.JPGJenn Suhr, photo by

Reposted January 09, 2017

The 2016 New Balance GP was a crazy weekend. I have covered the Olympic Trials on February 13 in Los Angeles, then jumped on a plane and did the red eye to Boston. The NB Indoor GP is back, thankfully, to its normal weekend, January 28, 2017. Make sure you are there!

Original post was February 2, 2016

Prior to her competition at the 2016 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix (February 14, 2016), Jenn Suhr did this interview with a group of the athletics press via conference call on February 2, 2016. Confident, thoughtful and relaxed, Jenn Suhr spoke about her focus, her competitions, and her goals.

As someone who has interviewed many athletes, and coached a few, Jenn Suhr is a nice departure. I have always found Jenn Suhr and her coach/husband, Rick Suhr, straightforward but slightly protective of their space. I respect that.

To be an Olympic champion, as Joan Benoit Samuelson once said, you have to be a bit selfish. But that is not really true about Jenn. In the past, I just did not know how to verbalize her approach and demeanor. I think I do know, so bare with me.

In the interview today, Jenn talked about the world record of 5.03 meters.

"There were about 35 teams at the meet in Brockport. I had known about it for some time, but did not decide that I was going to vault there until shortly before the meet. When you are ready to compete, you are ready." is how Jenn Suhr noted the circumstances around the meet.

" There were 27 or so competitors in the pole vault. And the crowd was larger than my last world record." It was the way Ms. Suhr noted the crowd. " I had sat in the stands and watched other people compete, it was nice to have a crowd here."

"The officials are very good up here. Many of them have worked with us before, so they knew what to expect. " noted Jenn Suhr.

Jenn Suhr has been working with a young vaulter, a 14 year old girl. "It is fun to give something back." was how Jenn noted allowing such a young vaulter into Jenn and Rick's world.

I asked Jenn a question about comparing levels of effort. I worded it as such: Ron Clarke, the great Australian distance runner, noted that running slow for a race was harder than running a fast time. Is it the same for the pole vault, are lower heights harder than the higher heights.?"

Jenn thought for a moment, then responded like this: " The top heights in the pole vault have not really improved. The group who was clearing fifteen feet a while ago are not at 4.71 meters. The difference in clearing 5.03 meters and the lower heights is confidence. It is mental. I have been doing the work, I have been completing the workouts. I have done every workout that Rick has planned for the past couple of months. Going over five meters oh-three is so much mental for me now, and I have the mental strength I did not have in 2005." noted Suhr.

But, then, Jenn provided this caveat:

" I am much more like I was in 2005: focused, sharing with my close and small circle of friends and family. That is how I will compete in 2016."

" I do not focus on one day or one meet. If the Olympic Trials does not go right, then, I move on. I want to defend at Rio, but we have had so many situations like that."

"Right now, I want to jump high and see how it goes. I do not know what I will do next month."

"The problem for me with US Champs and World Indoors is that I have to jump twice in four days. At 33, and then, I will be 34, that is very hard. My competition will have rest time between when they qualify and go to the World Indoors. "

Jenn Suhr and Rick Suhr are fascinating to watch at a major event. The tactics, the communication, the jumping and the waiting all play apart in the drama.

When Jenn Suhr attempted 5.07 meters, per her analysis, the first jump just got the tightness out of her legs, as she had waited too long between 5.03m and 5.07m. The second attempt was better and the third was pretty close, she just made a mistake on her approach.

How high can Jenn Suhr go? I am not sure, 5.07 meters is a matter of time. 5.10 meters could be a place where she goes.

Right now though, I want to sit in the stands at Reggie, like I do most years and watch her vault. With Jenn Suhr, you are watching one of the greatest athletes in the world, a two time Olympic medalist, silver in 2008 and gold in 2012, compete.

Imagine what those kids at Brockport, New York came away with. In their 35 team indoor meet, they witnessed a world record in the pole vault! What inspiration!

Jenn Suhr has vaulted at Reggie Lewis since 2005, and that is now at least 14 different events. She has won 15 US champs indoor and out. Pretty impressive coming from a young women who was an all around athlete when Rick Suhr convinced her to join the vaulting ranks.

Rick Suhr is a tough coach. He has analysed the pole vault forward and backward and he has analysed Jenn Suhr. They have found a way to make coach/athlete and husband and wife work. That is tough enough. To juggle training, competing, sponsors, travel, that is all part of the unwritten challenges of being a world class athlete.

If you want to see Jenn Suhr, one of the finest women's vaulters in history and the current indoor world record holder, vault, go to the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, February 14, 2016, at the famed Reggie Lewis Center, from 3:30 to 5 pm. Find tickets and info at

And when the vault is announced, watch every jump. Watch every attempt by Jenn Suhr. Watch her warm up, watch her jump, and know that you are seeing one of the greatest athletes in the world.

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