Olympics: Jacobs' Jager coasts to steeplechase final
On the biggest stage of his young professional career, Evan Jager looked completely at ease and in control.
The 2007 Jacobs graduate from Algonquin took a second to wave to the camera just before his 3,000-meter steeplechase preliminary race Friday at the Olympic Games in London. Then, with an intent and focused look, he cranked out another impressive run in his new event.
Jager let up in the final 40 meters and finished second in his heat in 8:16.61 to qualify for Sunday’s finals race. France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad (8:16.23) edged Jager for the heat victory.
They had the fastest qualifying times out of the three heats.
Jager’s time was 10 seconds slower than his personal-best of 8:06.81 on July 21 in Monaco, but qualifying was the main thing.
The strategy, Jager told the Register-Guard from Eugene, Ore., was to position himself among the top four runners and conserve as much energy as possible.
Jager found himself in the lead with two laps remaining. Knowing he was comfortably in the finals, he slowed down and was passed by 2008 Olympics steeplechase runner-up Mekhissi-Benabbad just before the finish line.
“At that point, I didn’t want to slow it down and let guys back in the race,” Jager said. “So I started to make a gradual push towards the end. My coach [Jerry Schumacher] will probably be a little bit mad that I took the lead and pushed.
“But it worked out in the end. I didn’t have to kick.”
Jager, 23, won four state titles in high school track and cross country before going to the University of Wisconsin in 2007-08. After a year there, he left with Schumacher, the former Badgers coach, to run professionally in Oregon with Nike.
Jager was running the steeplechase for only the sixth time Friday.
Ethiopia’s Roba Gari (8:20.68) and Kenya’s Brimin Kipruto (8:28.62) won the other two heats. Kipruto is the defending Olympics champion.
A Kenyan runner has won the last seven Olympic steeplechase races.
Neither of the two Kenyans who beat Jager in Monaco on July 21 in an IAAF Track and Field Diamond League Meet race (Conselus Kipruto and Paul Kipsiele) are in the Olympic steeplechase.
U.S. runner Donn Cabral also qualified for the steeplechase final by taking fourth in the third heat.
Watch Jager go for the gold
What: steeplechase finals
When 3:25 Sunday
Watch online: at nbcolympics.com