Describing Jenn Suhr as an animal lover is an understatement. The USA’s top female pole vaulter has limited herself to Morris, an orange cat, and Tundra, a white Great Pyrenees dog, because her constant travel makes it hard to find petsitters for more than two animals.

In this photo taken Feb. 16, pole vaulter Jenn Suhr warms up near space heaters while training inside a custom built training facility in Churchville, N.Y.

Suhr, formerly Stuczynski, won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She holds the U.S. record and is the No. 2 women’s pole vaulter all-time behind two-time Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia.

Eight years ago Rick Suhr saw her playing basketball and liked her competitiveness. He told Suhr she should try pole vaulting. He’s been coaching her ever since and the two married in January 2010.

These days Rick Suhr calls his wife the local conservation officer. She’s always on a four-wheeler riding their 10-acre property in Rochester, N.Y., looking for animals. Once she found a badly hurt fawn; Rick told her it was dead. Jenn Suhr nursed the baby back to health feeding it goat’s milk.

I have a wild game camera. We set it up on the property where there’s the most traffic of deer, fox, rabbits. I put apples out there to get them in front of the camera. When I travel I usually come home and check it. When I first got it, I was checking it every day. Now it’s probably once a week. The first night I put it out there I got an eight-point buck on there so I thought this is going to be awesome. And then I went two weeks without anything.

I told him we’re going to take the pole vault barn and turn it into a kennel.

Everything we do on the road is a lot harder to deal with having Celiac disease. It is very difficult. To get the right nutrition and the blend of everything and to make sure there’s not gluten in whatever they coated the chicken. It’s very challenging when we’re traveling. We packed a bag when we went over to Korea. It’s funny because then we had to go to Zurich afterward. And when we were getting on the plane they tried to charge us $1,000 because we had an extra suitcase. There’s no way I’m paying $1,000 for the food. So we actually had to get rid of it all and go to Zurich without it.

Pole vaulting is an event of high and lows. As soon as you start working on one part of the vault, then another part goes bad. It’s constant reformatting and hitting the reset button.

I’ve made some mistakes before. I thought my neighbor’s cat got away. It was a white cat. I was out probably two miles away and saw this white cat and thought, ‘Oh, that’s their cat.’ So I picked it up and brought it to their doorstep thinking they’re going to be so happy and they’re like, ‘Our cat is inside.’ I had to take it all the way back. I dropped it off and it ran to its home, which I picked it out of its front yard.

Rick and I are there for each other. It’s such a team effort in everything we do and to be married on top of it, it just puts that much more emphasis in what we do. We’re able to focus better and realize pole vaulting is an aspect of life, but it’s not our life. It’s part of it, but it’s not the whole thing. There’s so much more important parts other than pole vaulting.

He sees people all the time and says that they’d be great pole vaulters, and I say just wait until after my career’s over before you start training someone else to break my records.

By Stephanie Kuzydym

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Jenn Suhr

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