The Observer

Proud to be a Hillbilly

For Jenn Stuczynski, being world renowned as an Olympic pole vaulter is something that's not to be taken for granted.

"You have to work hard during the Olympics. It's one of those things you don't really know about until it's over and it's not to be taken for granted," said Stuczynski Saturday during her visit to Fredonia Saturday, as part of "The Olympic Review."

If you watched Stuczynski vault in Beijing this summer, you know the finesse and grace that it takes to pole vault. The Stuczynski precision was just as clear as she took questions from the media on Saturday afternoon.

She credits her small town pride to growing up in Fredonia. "Coming from a small town you can still have big dreams and be a small-town girl. You don't have to come from a huge setting to do huge things."

She was asked about how she responded to the stiff competition she faced in Beijing, China this summer. "It's more about concentration than competition. It's like when you golf; if you swing really hard you end up slicing the ball, pole vaulting is like this."

The day of free events was scheduled by Fredonia Olympic Celebration Committee. It began with free hot dogs, pop and chips, and continued with a video and skits, commentated by Shawna Shakala of 96 KIX and Mike Ferguson. Members of the Olympic Committee had been working on the multimedia event complete with video, dancing and some stunning choreography.

From a podium on the stage of the high school auditorium, Shakala welcomed Jenn Stuczynski. "We welcome all of you as well. Jenn was so busy in Beijing that she probably didn't get a chance to catch up on the other Olympians."

The video, which featured an actor portraying Michael Phelps and gymnasts from the American team and girls from the Chinese team, was "not meant to portray actual events."

"We're proud to be Americans from this region. It's an excellent place to raise children," said Rosemary and Larry Tibbetts at the showing of the video.

"It's a small town. Everybody knows each other and we wanted everyone to have a stake in the Olympic celebration," said Fredonia Mayor Michael Sullivan. "We made the shirts and the signs so everyone could support."

Ann Bartkowiak is a friend of her parents, Mark and Sue Stuczynski. "You think of her as your own, I'm happy we were able to do this for her," she said.

Everyone who came along was asked to wear their T-shirts in support of Jenn and after the presentation, a photo was taken of all the people wearing the shirts.

Stuczynski showed a lot of hometown pride. "We're proud to be Hillbillies. We always will be," she exclaimed at the end of her press conference in the Fredonia High School Library.

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