Jenn Stuczynski failed to set an American indoor pole vault record last night at the Reggie Lewis Center during the Reebok Boston Indoor Games, but she still won the event with a vault of 4.60 meters (15 feet 1 inch).
Although she would have liked to add the indoor record to her outdoor record, Stuczynski was pleased with the performance, especially considering the meet marked her first major competition since the 2007 World Championships in August.
During the World Championships, Stuczynski injured her left Achilles' tendon and took time off to let it heal. After last night's competition, Stuczynski acknowledged she was "just getting back into competitive shape." She looks at her performance "as a start."
It is a start that should end with Stuczynski competing at the Beijing Olympics.
"I try not to look at it like that [a buildup to Beijing]," said Stuczynski. "It's a meet. If something goes wrong, I don't want to think of it as the way to Beijing. It's the way to Beijing when it's summertime. Indoor is a lot of fun. Outdoor I take more serious."
Stuczynski, however, was taking her vaults at the American indoor record seriously.
"[With the first two attempts], I was just trying too hard," said Stuczynski. "I take it like golf. Sometimes you swing as hard as you can and you don't know where it's going to go . . . The third one I just wasn't deep enough into the pad. I almost tried to save it. In warm-ups, I felt good. After 15-1, I felt I started to get a little tired on the runway. I have to build up my endurance. All in all, in the end, I was pretty satisfied."
A pain-free mile
Perhaps it wasn't the triumphant comeback before a hometown crowd that Salem's Jen Toomey envisioned, but it was an injury-free start on what could be a journey toward the Beijing Olympics.
Racing competitively for the first time in two years in the Boston Indoor Games, Toomey finished the women's mile in eighth place with a time of 4 minutes 36.27 seconds. American Jenelle Deatherage won in 4:32.95.
"It was a very strange feeling to have the nerves and race again," said Toomey. "It was good that I saw it, but I have to be more aggressive. Now I know what I need to work on."
When asked how she felt about her time, Toomey added, "It's fine. I'm certainly not going to call everyone and tell them about my time. It gives you a platform to jump off of and go from there."
Despite finishing near the back of the field, Toomey considers staying healthy a small victory considering how many injuries - stress fractures in both feet, groin pull, torn meniscus in her left knee - have disrupted her training.
"That's the one blessing," said Toomey. "I wake up in the morning and I don't have any pain. I haven't felt like that in six or seven years."
Stitch not ditched
After easily winning the women's 3,000 meters in 8:33.37, Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba needed a little extra time to collect herself. She wasn't disappointed with her race, but rather the fact that a troubling side stitch recurred during the competition.
The same side pain caused Dibaba to fall back during the 10,000 meters at the 2007 World Championships, though she defended her title in the event.
Dibaba hoped rest and time away from racing had solved the problem. The 3,000 meters, her first race since the World Championships, proved otherwise. If the cause of the pain is not determined, Dibaba believes the side stitch could affect her future on the track.
"I think it's a very serious problem and I think it's getting worse," said Dibaba, through a translator. "We have seen so many doctors, but they say I have nothing. They couldn't find out what it is. It was the same problem I had running in the World Championships and other races. It's a cramp in the side of my stomach."
Dibaba may run another 3,000 meters indoors, but she also plans to meet with her manager and decide what she will race in the future, possibly the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
No lift for Kluft
Carolina Kluft, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the heptathlon, was disappointed with her third-place finish in the long jump. She jumped 6.34 meters (20 feet 9 3/4 inches). "I was hoping I'd be able to jump good today, but I felt bad," said Kluft. "It was just a bad day. I had problems since the beginning [of the event]. I have no excuses." . . . The crowd favorite came from the youth relay event, in which pint-sized 7-year-old Davonte Burnett anchored the Cambridge Jets to a win . . . The meet started on a fast note with Kent Lemme of the Greater Springfield Harriers winning the men's masters mile in 4:25.04, not far off the meet record of 4:23:19 set by Brian Pope in 2005 . . . Christian Cantwell won the shot put with a toss of 68 feet 9 3/4 inches.