September 5, 2014
The first sub 8:00 steeplechase of the year. A new American record. This was a great race to end the Diamond League season as Jairus Birech got the win in 7:58.41 and Evan Jager chopped more than two seconds off his old American record of 8:06.81 running 8:04.71 to finish third.
This one was hot from the beginning as Haron Lagat rabbited Birech and Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad out to a 2:38.41 first kilometer as the sub 8:00 quest (2:40km) was on. There was a gap to Evan Jager and Olympic champ Ezekiel Kemboi and others. Before the half-way mark Jager would pass Kemboi and be racing in no-man’s land.
Just before 2km (5:21.31) Birech passed Lagat and would open up lead on Mekhissi-Benabbad. At the bell (6:56) Birech had a comfortable lead on Mekhissi-Benabbad who is known for his kick. With a strong last lap, sub-8:00 and the win would belong to Birech
Birech powered around the final lap and Mekhissi-Benabbad would not get any closer. Just before the finish line, Birech saw the clock and punched his fist in the air as he crossed in 7:58.41. Mekhissi-Benabbad settled for second in 8:03.23.
Behind them, Jager had done a good job in maintaining his position in third, even gaining on the leaders between 1600 and 2000. At the bell (7:02.5), the American record was clearly in jeopardy if he could close well. Evan Jager closed well in roughly 62.1 to get the American record in third.
Way behind Jager, the race was on for fourth and Jager’s training partner Dan Huling secured it in a season’s best of 8:15.61.
Olympic champions Brimin Kipruto and Ezekiel Kemboi were 6th and 15th respectively.
Video highlights for USA Visitors
Quick Thought #1: Birech Gets the Deserved Sub-8:00
Birech has dominated the steeplechase this year. After a fourth place at the Diamond League opener in Doha, he won six DL steeples in a row. His only significant “hiccup” was a silver at the Commonwealth Games. Birech had been winning convincingly on the DL circuit but he had not been under 8:02.37 in a slow year on the circuit. That changed tonight.
Quick Thought #2: Evan Jager Caps His Season With the American record
Evan Jager now has a nice tradition of running fast at the end of the year in Brussels. Last year he nearly beat Galen Rupp and ran 13:02.40 for 5000m. Tonight, he broke his own American record by over 2 seconds in the steeple.
An American record is always impressive, but for a specialist like Jager in a non-championship year it really gives his season a stamp of success. Jager only has run the steeple at four meets this year: USAs, and the Diamond Leagues in Oslo, Monaco and here. Jager nearly broke the American record in Oslo (8:06.97) his first time out in Europe, so to have missed the record today would have been disappointing.
He heads into 2015 with strong medal prospects and is now knocking on the door of the magical sub-8:00 barrier.
Speaking of Oslo, the pace today upfront was nearly identical to the pace in Oslo, but Birech just ran the last kilometer faster. Jager most definitely was faster at 2km in Oslo than here, but closed better today. That’s a good sign as finishing speed is most important in championship races.
Quick Thought #3: Sub-8:00s Are Still Pretty Rare
In 2010, the last non-championship year, there were zero sub-8:00 steeples, so the lack of a sub-8:00 until today was not unprecedented. Running under 8:00 is quite the accomplishment.
Number of Sub-8:00 Performers in the Steeple
Splits: 1km Haron Lagat 2:38.41 2km Birech 5:21.31
Last 3 laps:
3rd to last lap- Birech 62.3, Jager 65.3
2nd to last lap- Birech 63.4, Jager 64.2
Last lap – Birech 62.00 Jager 62.1
Discuss this race in our forum: Jagerrrrr 8.04.71 – New Steeplechase American Record!!!
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