US pole vaulter Jenn Suhr (Getty Images) © Copyright
Feature Rochester, USA

5.07m 'didn't feel that high' by Suhr's new standards

Jenn Suhr broke her own world indoor record in the pole vault on Saturday, clearing 5.03m on her third attempt at that height to add one centimetre to her previous mark from 2013.

Vaulting at the Brockport Golden Eagle Multi and Invitational, a two-day collegiate meeting hosted by the State University of New York at Brockport, Suhr lined up next to 27 other women who started vaulting at 2.30m and worked through 14 heights before Suhr opened at 4.60m. (The second-place vaulter, Janice Keppler, cleared 4.15m.)

After clearing 5.03m, Suhr made three attempts at 5.07m, a height no woman has cleared before indoors or out, and she reported that the results were encouraging.

“The measurements took longer than I thought, so I was sitting too long before the first attempt,” said Suhr, speaking to reporters via a teleconference call on Tuesday (2). "The second attempt was good, but on too light a pole. I switched poles for the third attempt, but then drove right through.

“It didn’t feel that high,” she continued. “Hopefully in Boston, if I get to that height, I can make a good try at it.”

Suhr’s next competition will be the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston on Sunday 14 February, the second event of the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Tour.

She explained her choice of Brockport, a suburb of Rochester on New York’s northern edge not far from Suhr’s training base.

“When you’re ready to jump, it doesn’t really matter where. Lots of times when I’m looking for a meet, I’ll look locally first.

“At the bigger meets, it’s a different kind of adrenaline. It’s a different kind of stress. Here (in Brockport) I had a crowd and people cheering me on. There were more people here than at the first world record (in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2013). This was packed. I don’t think I sat down for a solid hour afterwards, with people coming up and congratulating me. It was exciting for me, and it was great to see how excited other people were about it.”

Mind and body in unison

“I knew in December I was in good shape,” Suhr continued. “Once my mind caught up with what my body was doing, it happened. It was possible at Kent State (where Suhr cleared 4.91m earlier in January) and once I knew it was possible, it could happen any time. We had a plan A and a plan B. I had to make my opening height and a winning bar to get to the record height.

“There’s a physical barrier and a mental one. Clearing the mental barrier is a big deal when nobody else has done it. I’m over that right now. In the vault you have a lot of time to think about the mental barriers. I won’t be surprised if I jump higher this season.”

Suhr didn’t admit to changing her training this year, and chalked up her excellent form to nothing more than a lack of setbacks.

“It’s been unfortunate that there’s always been something that’s happened, like leaving my training base, or switching poles, that doesn’t work out. Or I get hit by every flu virus out there. This year nothing’s hit me so far.”

Even the weather has been good, so the Suhrs’ famous propane-heated indoor training facility hasn’t been as frigid as in past winters. “We haven’t had the sub-zero temperatures and that’s helped me a lot.”

Asked about the current state of the women’s pole vault, which was barely a decade old at championship level when Suhr broke through in 2005, Suhr suggested that the event had stabilised. “It isn’t developing as quickly as it did. The growth is in the middle number; (competition) is thicker in the 4.70s, but at the top end it’s pretty much remained the same.”

Suhr’s plans right now include nothing more complicated than sticking to the plan her coach has laid out, and that means returning to Boston in just over a week, and the venue where she won her first US Championship in 2005.

“Boston is one of those places I like to come back to, it’s where it all started. It’s like I’m a home crowd favourite.”

Beyond that, she’s looking at defending her Olympic title in Rio, but not too hard. “We always have a goal of repeating, but I don’t put my eggs in one basket. I’ve already won this, and things could happen at the US Olympic Trials, so I’ll have my plan B.”

Parker Morse for the IAAF