Jenn Suhr is the top-ranked female pole vaulter in the world. She is the reigning Olympic gold medalist. She holds the American Record outdoors, owning the six best jumps in U.S. history. Earlier this year, she broke the World Indoor Record when she jumped 5.02m/16 feet, 5.5 inches in winning her 12th U.S. title. She heads into the adidas Grand Prix in NYC on May 25 in fine form.
Most of the time, she’d rather tell you about her adventures with animals. Pets, strays, wild … you name ’em, Suhr loves ’em.
And not from just a theoretical standpoint, either. Her husband and coach, Rick, calls her the local conservation officer of their rural upstate New York environs, and she teases him that she’s going to turn the double Quonset-hut in which she trains into a kennel.
It all started with her first childhood pet, a rabbit she named Hippity Hoppity. “When my dad said ‘yes,’ I ran around the store jumping up and down I was so excited,” she remembers.
Now there’s Tundra, her 130-pound white Great Pyrenees. And Morris, her orange cat. Then there’s the fawn that started following her around the yard. And the day that Tundra went on the lam with a canine buddy … we’ll let Jenn tell you about that one, from a recent entry in her IAAF diary:
“When I noticed he was gone, I went looking around the neighborhood for him, and saw that he was running around with another dog. I was able to catch Tundra but I would have needed the speed of Tyson Gay to catch the Jack Russell Terrier he was with.
“For two hours, I tried to track down this dog (by car, of course) while his owners were also frantically searching for him. Finally, about four miles away, I saw a dog wandering! I tried to lure him into my car with trail mix and protein bars but he kept running around a house. Any time I got close, he ran away
“After about 10 minutes of me doing whatever I thought would get this dog to come to me, someone came out of the house. The dog ran inside and they asked: ‘Why are you trying to steal my dog!’ Oops, I was chasing the wrong dog!”
It’s one of the few things Suhr has chased lately that she hasn’t caught. Is Yelena Isinbayeva’s outdoor World Record next?
The World Indoor Record, she says, “made me a lot hungrier. I couldn’t wait to get back into training.”