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Suhr: Rising to the occasion in Boston

By Jenn Suhr

So I was blessed to end 2011 ranked No. 1 in the world … 

And I was doomed to open my 2012 campaign with a “no height” at the World’s Most Famous Sports Arena (Madison Square Garden).

No-Heights (when you don’t clear any bar during the competition) is the most frustrating result possible for any pole vaulter.  Sort of like a wide receiver dropping a pass that he always catches (being a New Yorker, I was pulling for the Giants but I feel for Welker).  I was so frustrated with the result, I bolted out of MSG as soon as the competition ended and within a half-hour was in the Lincoln Tunnel heading west.  True to my luck of the day, we got stuck in a Lincoln Tunnel traffic jam behind a tractor-trailer that lodged itself in the middle of the tunnel.  Of all the places on earth, being stuck in a car with my husband and coach, Rick, in a traffic jam after a “No-Height” is not a place I wanted to be at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night. 

Rick was oddly quiet so I figured I would start with my own meet summation of what went wrong.   Again, he was just silent.  But I figured that his critical analysis was coming and it would not be favorable … and deservingly so considering my less than positive result.  With my confidence questionable, my frustration high, and our Lincoln Tunnel progress painfully slow, he finally broke the silence with an unexpected remark. He looked at me and said, “I think you can break the American record next week in Boston.”  At first, I didn’t think I heard him right.  Then, when he repeated it, I thought the fumes from the cars inside the tunnel must have gotten to him.

His summation was not what I expected, but then again, good coaches are never predictable!  He told me I was jumping better than I scored. He was able to look at all the variables of the night, link them together and logically explain to me what had happened. 

So my week’s work began right there as we exited into New Jersey en route back to Riga.  We sketched out a weeklong plan that, if executed properly, would give me a shot at the American record seven days later. The technical adjustments went into place the first thing the next morning and the mental picture started to form. I understood what he was doing as the week progressed. His confidence in me is contagious and by Tuesday afternoon I started to believe (my confidence was admittedly low after MSG) that the Boston event would be a great one for me.

On Saturday night, I became the first American woman in history to clear the bar at 16 feet in an indoor competition. Saturday could not have come soon enough. The push from the Boston crowd helped me along the way as they always have (this was my third American record in the Reggie Lewis Center). New England fans seem to love the pole vault and they showed me that love on Saturday. The thing I remember the most was falling to the pad after successfully clearing 16 feet and hearing more than 4,000 people cheering.  What a feeling!

The highs and lows of this event are hard for Olympic track fans to understand and even harder for pole vaulters to navigate emotionally. My results over the last week or so illustrate it best.  A “No-Height” one week in NYC and an American record the next.  That is the pole vault.

As tough as it was this weekend for New England sports fans, they were a big part of my American Record in Boston.

Pole vaulter Jenn Suhr, a Fredonia native, is scheduled to compete in the Millrose Games in New York, starting on Saturday.



Track and field
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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.