She made a stop on the way to visit a young friend who has been dealing with cancer.
Suhr took up vaulting unusually late — as a senior in college.
Six years later, she married her coach.
Jenn Suhr wanted to surprise her young friend Amalie Brewer, and Suhr knew just how to do it.
Brewer, an aspiring pole vaulter at Glen Rose High School, recently was cleared to resume training after months of cancer treatments. Suhr, who knows a little bit about pole vaulting — she’s the reigning Olympic women’s champion and shattered a world record at an indoor meet in January — decided to drop by Brewer’s high school in North Texas before making her way to this week’s Texas Relays.
Brewer was in a gym when Suhr popped out of her hiding place in a nearby room.
“It was nice,” Suhr said. “Just to sit there, talk to her, go over some pole vault drills. She’s just coming back. She was so sick for so long, so she’s learning how to come back and get her strength back.”
Suhr, 34, set the women’s indoor world record on Jan. 30, when she cleared 16 feet, 6 inches at a meet in her home state of New York. She began vaulting at 22, when she was a senior at Roberts Wesleyan College, where she ended her college basketball career as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
A track and field standout for Roberts Wesleyan in the javelin and 100-meter hurdles, Suhr — then Jenn Stuczynski — tried the pole vault at the urging of Rick Suhr, a Roberts Wesleyan coach. Four years later, she won a silver medal in the event at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Two years later, she married her longtime coach, becoming Jenn Suhr.
“In pole vault, it’s unprecedented,” Rick Suhr said of Jenn’s meteoric rise. “Our competitors have been jumping since they were 12, 13 years old.”
On Saturday at Myers Stadium, Suhr hopes to compete against an elite field that includes NCAA champions, collegiate record-holders and Olympians like herself. Still dealing with a strained calf muscle in her left leg, Suhr practiced at Myers Stadium on Tuesday with pink athletic tape crisscrossing the ailing leg.
Her workout Wednesday, she said, will help her decide whether to vault this weekend.
“I’m not going to make a poor decision and push it if I shouldn’t,” Suhr said.
Her long-term goal calls for defending her Olympic championship at the Rio de Janeiro Games, which will open Aug. 5. Four years ago in London, she won gold with a vault of 15-7, topping Cuba’s Yarisley Silva, who cleared the same height but lost a tiebreaker involving misses during the competition.
Suhr said successfully competing in Beijing and London will clearly aid her in Brazil.
“There’s a lot of little things you learn there that have totally nothing to do with pole vault or even track,” Rick Suhr said. “How to survive over there, how to eat, how to deal with jet lag. Just exchanging currency, knowing what to pack, what not to pack.”
The Suhrs have been in Austin for a week, but instead of sampling barbecue or taking in the night life, they’ve been focused on Jenn’s workouts and watching other vaulters practice at Myers Stadium.
“We live this event and this sport like no other,” Jenn Suhr said. “To the point where it’s probably unhealthy.”