BOSTON — Jenn Stuczynski knew how many times she had tried to break the American indoor record in the pole vault without clearing the bar: “Too many.”
The Olympic silver medalist finally cleared the bar at 15 feet, 9 3/4 inches on Saturday to break a six-year-old American mark and win the Boston Indoor Games for the third straight year. Stuczynski, who has broken the American outdoor record four times in the last 18 months, earned a $25,000 bonus for breaking the U.S. mark.
“I tried it so many times; I wanted to make it today,” said Stuczynski, who finished second in Beijing when Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva set a world record of 16-6 3/4. “The height was beating me for a long time. This time, I’m actually beating the height.”
Stuczynski estimated that she tried to break Stacy Dragila’s 2003 mark of 15-9 1/2 about a dozen times over the past three years — including last year in Boston and last week at the Millrose Games in New York, when she won with a height of 15-5 1/2. Dragila finished a distant second.
Olympic champion Steven Hooker of Australia won the men’s pole vault with a height of 19 feet, 10 1/2 inches — the eighth-best in history, and the only person other than Sergei Bubka to reach it. He tried to beat Bubka’s world record of 20 feet, 2 inches, but hit the bar hard the first try, ran under it on the second and hit the bar with his midsection on his way down on his third attempt.
In the most exciting race, Sentayehu Ejigu of Ethiopia outleaned Olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan and hit the tape 0.005 seconds in front to win the women’s 5,000 meters in 14 minutes, 47.613 seconds. Flanagan, who finished with the same official time on the scoreboard, set an American record and also got a $25,000 bonus.
“That’s a great time,” Flanagan said. “I was so focused on the race I wasn’t paying attention to the time.”
Kara Goucher won the 3,000 meters in a personal best of 8 minutes, 46.65 seconds, pulling away from Sally Kipyego with two laps to go to win by more than two seconds. Now Goucher plans to stretch out her performance to the 26.2-mile distance she’ll run at the Boston Marathon on April 20.
“I was just trying to be invisible for the first half — the same race I hope to run in April,” she said. “It’s actually a good dress rehearsal. You don’t get to race that much when you run the marathon. So any chance I get, I use that.”
Goucher had the fastest debut for an American woman when she finished third at the New York Marathon last year. During training this week, she ran the entire length of the Boston Marathon course — though not all at one time — and she plans to turn to marathon training full-time with a 20-mile run on Sunday.