Move over Smallville, Fredonia has its own all-American superhero in Olympian Jenn Stucynski; she can't quite fly but she just may be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
"I would never have imagined this amount of support, it's amazing," Stucynski said. "We heard stories more and more about the signs and the shirts and we realized just how vast the support was and that we needed to come here to show our appreciation."
Stucynski said she rearranged her schedule just so she could make this special trip home. She will be leaving on Thursday from Rochester with her parents.
U.S. Olympian Jennifer Stuczynski signed posters, newspapers pictures and even T-shirts during her stop in Fredonia on Tuesday.
OBSERVER Photo by Frank Besse
U.S. Olympian Jenn Stuczynski signs autographs for attendants during Fredonia’s National Night Out event.
"It means so much to me to have them there," Stucynski said. "It is their first trip overseas and they're headed straight to Beijing so it should be comical," she laughed.
Stuczynski was born to Mark and Sue Stuczynski, grocery store owners in Fredonia. She became involved in sports beginning at age 6 playing softball. At 9 years old, she competed in an adult golf league with her grandfather.
At Fredonia High School, she played softball, basketball, soccer, and track and field, and won the New York State pentathlon title in 2000 as a senior.
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She went on to play basketball and track and field while she attended Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester. She took her team to the NCCAA national championship game in 2003-2004, and graduated as the school's all-time leading scorer in basketball with 1,819 points; and school record-holder in the 100 meter hurdles, 400 meter hurdles, javelin and high jump.
"My inspiration comes from many places," Stuczynski said. "I'm very competitive, especially against myself. I'm always trying to get better."
Because of the show of support from the county, with many Fredonia, Dunkirk and surrounding town residents as well as County Executive Greg Edwards in attendance, Stuczynski said she feels only love, not pressure.
"I don't feel any pressure to make people proud of me," she said. "I just hope that people will be proud if I win and proud if I don't because I did my best."
Stuczynski took up the pole vault in 2004 as a graduate student at Roberts Wesleyan. In 2005, she won the 2005 NAIA indoor national title in the pole vault with a 4.00 m (13 1/2 in.) clearance, following that up with a win at the 2005 USA Indoor championships in Boston, soaring over 4.35 m (14ft 3 1/4 in).
On May 20, 2007, Stuczynski broke the American outdoor pole vault record at the Adidas Track Classic in Carson, California, beating a talented group including an Olympic champion to become the top pole vaulter in the country. She reached the record height of 15 feet, 10-1/2 inches, beating the American record set by Stacy Dragila in 2004 by a half inch.
On June 2, 2007 at the Reebok Grand Prix, she cleared 4.88 m (16ft), becoming only the second woman in the world to do so. After clearing 14ft 7in and 15ft 3in on her first attempts to seal the victory, Stuczynski took three attempts at 16 feet, clearing the bar on her final try to eclipse by one and a half inches the American record she had set the previous month. The only woman who has vaulted higher is the Russian Yelena Isinbayeva, who holds the world record, 5.01 m (16 ft 5 1/4 in).
At the U.S. Olympic Trials on July 6, Stuczynski cleared 4.92 m (16 feet 1 3/4 in.), winning the trials and again breaking her own American record.
"All I can say to young people is to follow your dreams, you never know where they will lead you," Stuczynski said. "A lot of people will say you can't do it. I had many people tell me this was not the right path and to go back to school, and I agree with that, I finished up my undergraduate work, but I also took a chance. All you need is one person to say you can do it."
Stucynski has also begun work on a graduate degree in child psychology. Leaving on Thursday for China, she will take with her memories of excited children in line for her autograph and familiar faces wishing her well.
"It is just touching is what it is," Stucynski said. "That's the perfect word for it."