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EUGENE, Ore. – (June 28, 2012) – Steeplechaser Evan Jager could not wait to start celebrating his ticket to London. Down the last stretch, after the final barrier cleared, the Illinois native took a long glance over his right shoulder and was all smiles, his tongue wagging and long blonde hair bobbing all the way to the finish.
“Mostly I was looking back to make sure I had secured a spot on the team,” said Jager, who in just his fourth steeple race notched a spot on the U.S. Olympic team before a record crowd of 22,602 on a rainy Thursday night at Hayward Field. “The crowd was cheering. I kind of played into it and fully embraced the experience of Hayward Field.”
He posted a personal record 8:17.40 by 3.5 seconds for 3000m steeplechase.
Two other Nike-sponsored athletes Donald Cabral and Kyle Alcorn followed Jager across the line and onto the Olympic Team as well.
Jager did not enter the race with the top qualifying time. That would be Billy Nelson at 8:17.27, although Nelson never played a role in the 3000 meter run over barriers and a water jump. Nelson would finish eighth in 8:32.21.
Instead, it was Brian Olinger who pushed the pace from the front until 1200 meters to go, when he dropped back and Dan Huling took command of the large pack. Jager moved into second, with Cabral right behind.
Over the waterstop with 500 meters to go, Jager surged past Huling, who ran 8:13 in 2010, and into the lead.
“I wanted to go up into the top three, but I ended up finding myself in second and I got to conserve energy, then I was in the lead with 500 to go and pushed it from there,” said the 23-year-old Jager, with the hometown crowd cheering wildly for the Oregon TC Elite member.
But Huling closed the gap on Jager and with a lap remaining, it was a four-man race between Jager, Huling, Cabral and Alcorn, with a long 400 meters to determine which one of the four was not going to London.
On the backstretch, Huling was overtaken by Cabral, then Alcorn. But neither could match Jager’s strength.
“I felt good in the penultimate lap, felt great in the last 400,” said Cabral, the former Princeton runner who nearly tripped over the first barrier on the last lap and ended in 8:19.81. “I closed hard and once I got out of the water I knew I was going to London.”
So did Jager. He emerged from the waterpit and over the last hurdle. He looked back and saw exactly was he was hoping to see – nobody even close.
“I saw I had it and had pure elation on my face and I knew I was going to London,” said Jager, who spent time after the race signing autographs on the track.
Alcorn closed in third place in 8:22.17. Alcorn also has local connections to Eugene, competing as a Duck for one year and completing his collegiate career at Arizona State.
Jager’s trail began as a 1500 meter specialist at the University of Wisconsin under then-coach Jerry Schumacher. In fall 2008, Jager signed a professional contract with Nike, left Wisconsin after one year and rejoined Schumacher in Portland, where Schumacher now coaches Nike-sponsored runners.
Just a year ago, Jager could not have even imagined making the Olympic Team in the steeple.
In 2009, he did make the World Championships team in Berlin in the 5000 meters, finishing 11th in his heat, but it was not until about a year ago that Jager considered the steeple after surgery to the navicular bone in his right foot.
He debuted in his new event in April at the Mt. SAC Relays where he ran 8:26.
His lack of experience in the finals Thursday did nothing to dampen his confidence.
“Today was my fourth steeplechase,” Jager said. “I wasn’t really worried about my lack of experience coming into the Trials because the steeple felt so natural. My first race I was just a few seconds under the “A” standard, so I was pretty confident I could come and compete with these guys.”
U.S. Olympic Trials – Track & Field
2012 London Olympic Games qualifier
Eugene, OR, Thursday, June 28, 2012
Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
1) Evan Jager (OR), 8:17.40
2) Donald Cabral (NJ), 8:19.81
3) Kyle Alcorn (CA), 8:22.17
4) Donnie Cowart (VA), 8:27.49
5) Ben Bruce (AZ), 8:29.61
6) Max King (OR), 8:30.54
7) Dan Huling (OH), 8:30.76
8) Billy Nelson (CO), 8:32.21
9) Cory Leslie (OH), 8:33.94
10) Augustus Maiyo (AL), 8:35.61
Deeper results and more Olympic Trials information at: www.usatf.org/events/2012/
(c) 2012 RunningUSA, all rights reserved, used with permission