Evan Jager Holds off Training Partner Dan Huling to Win Third Straight Steeple Title

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By LetsRun.com

June 29, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Heavily-favored Evan Jager came through to win his third straight title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2014 USATF Outdoor Championships at Hornet Stadium in 8:18.83. Battling temperatures of over 90 degrees, Jager managed to hold off a game effort from Bowerman Track Club teammate Dan Huling, eventually pulling away after the final water jump.

This was a tight race up front until the bell, with Jager, Huling, Donn Cabral and Cory Leslie all right there with 400 to go. Leslie fell off as he could only manage a 66-second last lap while Jager, Huling and Cabral all ran 60s. Jager looked comfortable when he finally moved off the final water jump and looked over his shoulder during the home stretch to double-check his victory. Huling looked to have second locked up but in the end had to work very hard to hold off Cabral, eventually beating him by just .31 seconds.

Quick thoughts, interviews and results below.

Quick Thought #1: Three straight for Jager.

Jager became the first man to three-peat in the steeplechase since Dan Lincoln did it from 2004 to 2006. He’s only 25, so how many more could he win? Henry Marsh has the record for most consecutive steeple wins at seven (1981-1987). Jager would be 30 in 2019 which would be the year he’d have a chance to win his eighth straight title. It’s definitely feasible if Jager can stay healthy.

Quick Thought #2: Though he was denied an upset win, this was another very good race for Huling.

With an 8:13 PR and a U.S. title (from 2010), Huling is no slouch, but Jager ran 8:06 earlier this year to take second in a Diamond League meet earlier this month in Oslo and had won the last two U.S. championships. Huling’s chances of beating Jager were small, but this was another step forward for Huling after he ran 8:15 in Oslo on June 11. Huling has never made it out of the prelims in three trips to Worlds, but another year of training with Jager and racing at a high level could see him contend for a spot in the final if he makes the team next year. He’s number 13 on the world list right now in 2014 but eight of the 12 guys in front of him are Kenyan and they can only send a maximum of four athletes to Worlds.

Quick Thought #3: American steepling is on the rise.

It’s been nine years since the U.S. had three guys under 8:20 in the steeple but today three Americans almost went sub-8:20 in the same race, one that was contested during the middle of the day in temperatures of over 90 degrees. Cabral has run sub-8:20 before and Leslie’s PR is 8:20.08, so it’s definitely possible that we could see not three, but four Americans under 8:20 in 2014 if those two can get in the right race.

Quick Take #4: A solid comeback for Donn Cabral.

Cabral had a solid return to USAs after a very poor 2013 where he ran three steeples all over 8:30, didn’t make the Worlds team (he was 6th) and ran a 29:49 10K where he was 5th in a race won in 29:04. Not a good year after running 8:19.14 (American Collegiate record) and finishing 8th at the Olympics the year before.

He speaks here about the confusion and frustration as he later on discovered that he was dealing with chronic Lyme disease.

Today he ran 8:20.04 to just miss his PR and finish a 3rd not far back from Huling. All this on a hot day when he came in to USAs not having run the steeple in a year.

Note: We wanted to interview Cabral, but he never came through the mixed zone after the race. Here is our interview with him from the prelims.

Evan Jager says he’s in the best shape of his life but that he knew Huling was a threat coming in.

The two train together and after Huling’s 8:17 at Oxy and 8:15 in Oslo, Jager knew it would be hard to beat him. Jager said his plan was to make it a fast race so that he and Huling could go 1-2 (or possibly 1-2-3 with teammate Andy Bayer) — he knew that some of the other guys in the field would close well over the last 400 and running a fast pace would be the best way to nullify that (Jager and Huling had the two fastest PRs coming in).

Jager also spoke about the heat in his postrace TV interview, saying, “Definitely the hottest weather I’ve ever raced in. It definitely was a grind today, a hard race, hard race.”

He said that when he ran 8:06.97 (just .16 off his American record) in Oslo, he did it the hard way with a fast first K and a “controlled blowup” the rest of the way. Jager has run only three career Diamond League steeples and seemed as if he planned on doing a few more before the end of the summer. He’d like to lower his own American record but said the goal was to race the top Kenyans and place top-three in Diamond League races as he did in Oslo to prepare for a shot at a medal in 2015 and beyond.

Dan Huling said he “wimped out” and should have tried to pass Jager.

Huling said that he felt good and went wide on the last barrier before the final water jump, but hesitated passing Jager and had a bad hurdle which cost him some ground on Jager. After that he had a “really horrific water jump” and at that point was too far behind to have a shot at beating Jager. Huling says he wished he had got around him before the water jump and made Jager go wide to get around him and have at least an exciting finish as they did in the women’s 5K where the winner gets passed and had to repass in the last 100.

He was happy getting second place though, especially losing to a guy as good as Jager. He has a few steeples coming up in Europe this summer and thinks he has a shot at his 4-year old 8:13 PR.

Andy Bayer said today was tough, but he plans on working on his hurdle form and attacking the steeple more this summer to try and get down to 8:20 or under.

He hasn’t given up on the 1500 at all, but this summer will be important in deciding what his future event might be next year.

Place Athlete Time
1 Evan Jager
Nike / Bowerman Track Club
8:18.83
2 Dan Huling
Nike / Bowerman Track Club
8:19.73
3 Donn Cabral
Nike
8:20.04
4 Cory Leslie
Nike
8:26.30
5 Donald Cowart
Unattached
8:29.61
6 Craig Forys
New York Athletic Club (NYAC)
8:37.06
7 Andy Bayer
Nike / Bowerman Track Club
8:40.53
8 Aric Van Halen
Unattached
8:42.86
9 Mason Ferlic
Michigan
8:43.12
10 Ben Bruce
adidas
8:44.31
11 Tabor Stevens
Adams St.
8:47.28
12 Billy Nelson
Unattached
8:52.05
13 Travis Mahoney
NJNY TC
8:55.81
14 Jesus Romo
New Balance Silicon Valley
9:00.48