Jennifer Stuczynski Suhr
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.
Just to pick a subject, how many of us can say we've won an Olympic silver medal?
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 2008.
Not bad for someone who was a little reluctant to take up the sport.
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.
After graduation in 2000, she moved on to Roberts Wesleyan College near Chili, New York and continued to excel as basketball as she led her team to two appearances in the NCCAA championship game. She was named the NCCAA Women's Basketball Player of the Year in 2004, averaging 24.3 points per game and and ended her career as the all-time leading scorer at Roberts Wesleyan with 1,819 points.
She also found time to participate in track, winning NCCAA titles in javelin, the 100-meter hurdles and, of course, the pole vault. She holds school records in that event, the 100-meter hurdles, the javelin, high jump, 400-meter hurdles, the 4 x 100 relay and the 4x400 relay.
In the spring of 2004, 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.
Under Suhr's guidance, Stuczynski Suhr, in just six weeks, jumped 11 feet, 4 inches at the NAIA Championships and finished in sixth place.
There was much more to come.
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.S. National Indoor Champion in 2005 and 2008 and the U.S. National Outdoor Champion in 2006, 2007, and 2008 and earned the ranking of second in the world, with only world-record holder Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva in front of her.
The stage was set to earn a trip to the 2008 Summer Games and Stuczynski Suhr proved she was ready for the big stage as she set a new U.S. Outdoor record of 16-1¾ during the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon.
Fredonia and the rest of Chautauqua County were in celebration mode and Stuczynski Suhr's name and picture were literally everywhere as she continued her preparation for her shot at an Olympic medal.
On August 18 in Beijing, with two other Russian competitors hot on her heels, Stuczynski Suhr made the jump of her life for a medal, coming through with a 15-9 effort to earn the silver medal with her rival Isinbayeva claiming the gold and the Olympic dream became a reality.
Stuczynski Suhr set a new American indoor record with a jump of 15-9¾ on February 7, 2009 in Boston.
Jennifer Stuczynski Suhr was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.
For more about Jennifer Stuczynski Suhr, see The Observer stories:
- Fredonia's Olympian Stuczynski's Heart, Faith, Determination Land Her in Beijing
- Hometown Hero Stuczynski "Touched" by Support of Area Residents
- Stuczynski Mania is in Full Swing
- WNY Polonia Salutes Olympian 'Pole' Vaulter
- Isinbayeva Stands Between Jenn and Gold
- Stuczynski Family Talks About Their Olympic Experience
- Proud to be a Hillbilly