Even before the men’s steeplechase final, I asked Roy Stevenson to write about Evan Jager. Jager has run four steeplechases, and look to have a long career ahead of him. Don Cabral, his number two in the race, also looks tough.
Roy Stevenson sees Evan as the perfect physical specimen for the steeple. I see the guy as the next American record holder…..
By Roy Stevenson
June 29, 2012
If exercise scientists could create the perfect steeplechaser, he would look something like U.S. Olympics Trials winner, Evan Jager.
First, you need someone tall and light to clear the hurdles with efficiency: Jager is 6’2″ and weighs in at 145lbs. Check.
Second you need a runner who can do a decent mile because contemporary steeplechasers require solid mile speed: Jager has a 3:54.35 mile (2009). Check.
Third, you need a runner with excellent distance strength to handle those last 3 laps when you’re hurting badly: Jager has a 13:22.18 5K (2009) and competed in the 2009 World Champs 5000m. Check.
Fourth, you need a runner who feels comfortable taking those nasty, 6″ square wooden hurdles. Jager’s first steeplechase hurdle session, in October 2011, exceeded coach John Schumacher’s and steeples coach Pascal Dobert’s (himself an Olympian 8:15.77 steepler) wildest expectations. “Hurdling felt natural”, says an elated Evan Jager, after his convincing win yesterday over steeplechase veterans Donald Cabral and Kyle Alcorn. Check.
Fifth, you need a mental toughness to get you through the rough and tumble that is the 3,000m steeplechase. Evan Jager has that in spades. Plus he actually enjoys an event (see his big smile and crowd waving in the final 30 meters of the trials) that many steeplechasers take up because the most talented and sane runners won’t touch.
A reformed miler, Evan Jager followed his coach Jerry Schumacher to Portland, Oregon, when Schumacher got the job working with the elite OTC athletes–a bold move, as Jager was just about to begin his sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin.
As a miler, Evan ranks 37th on the U.S. All-Time list, 21st on the 2011 U.S. 1500m list (3:38.80) and 12th on the 2011One Mile list (3:56.21), all of which are nice times, but are not likely to get him on the Olympic 1500m team, and with the resurgence in American 5000m running, spearheaded by Lagat and Rupp, his chances of getting in the 5,000m team are odds-against.
So, after a bad foot injury in 2010, Evan Jager re-evaluated his running career and brought up the idea of running the steeplechase to Schumacher in spring, 2011. After his foot healed up, Jager hit steeplechase practice with a vengeance in October 2011, doing 3 sessions a week, primarily on the hurdles.
Then Jager ran his first steeplechase at the Mt. Sac Relays, winning with a flourish and setting a meet record of 8:26.14, but missing the A qualifying time of 8:23.10. His second steeples, at the U.S. High Performance Occidental Meet in May caused quite a splash as he wiped out in the water jump, but amazingly still ran 8:20.90 to meet the A qualifier!
The rest is history. After an 8:30.60 in his heat, Evan Jager ran and hurdled his way onto the crack U.S. team with another PR, this time 8:17.40, to Donald Cabral’s 8:18.81 and Kyle Alcorn’s 8:22.17, with favorite Dan Huling fading badly to 7th. Evan Jager feels that he still has 5 seconds up his sleeve in this event, and aims to make the Olympic final.
When distance runners improve their times in such huge leaps as Jager has done, and considering that he has only run four steeplechases, Jager clearly has tremendous room for improvement. Perhaps a sub 8:10 at the Olympics is not as farfetched as it seems for this runner who has found his true calling?