March 01, 2013
In 2011, Suhr set the American indoor record here, clearing 15 feet, 11 1/4 inches.
Frank Franklin II/AP

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- It's fairly safe to say that Jenn Suhr sure loves coming here for the U.S. Indoor Track & Field Championships.

That's because the defending Olympic pole vault gold medalist has been atop the podium in both of her previous trips to Albuquerque for the championships, which began Friday with the multi-events and continue Saturday and Sunday.

In 2011, Suhr set the American indoor record here, clearing 15 feet, 11 1/4 inches and she has designs on bettering that mark during Saturday's competition, although she stopped short of naming her target for the meet.

"If I share it and I don't hit it, then it's a fail," Suhr said. "But I have some lofty goals for this meet."

And tops on that list would be a record-setting performance

"That would be a start," she said with a smile. "And then we are going to go from there."

Suhr has won five straight indoor championships and six overall, but adding another to trophy case is no less paramount, she said.

"Indoor championships are an important meet because I think anytime you can put yourself in a situation to compete, it's important," Suhr said. "I pretend I'm qualifying for a meet in this event. Even though we're not qualifying for a meet, I pretend it is (a qualifying meet). And that's the pressure I put on myself because I need to put that pressure on to execute when I need to."

Janay DeLoach Soukoup, who is trying for her third consecutive long jump title, also said this is an important meet even if there's not as much at stake.

"It means a lot," she said. "Getting a national title indoors, outdoors, at any point in time is great for your record so I'd like to get another win."

Having a championship on the line is enough to get her competitive fires burning, said DeLoach Soukup, who earned a bronze medal last summer at the London Olympics.

"It's a championship so it's most important to come out and compete, and do what you can," she said. "Give it your best and hopefully win."

Erik Sowinski, a recent Iowa graduate and a newcomer to the national championships, is hoping to build off his record-setting performance in the 600-meter run at the Millrose Games two weeks ago in New York.

A late entry to the Games, Sowinski ran a 1:15.16 to beat two members of the U.S. Olympic team.

"I want to run well in the preliminaries and get in the finals," he said. "Once you get in the finals, anything can happen. I just want to put myself in a good position to do that."

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