Evan Jager Runs 8:35, Takes 2nd At Mt. SAC in First Steeple in 4 Years
April 14, 2022
In his first completed 3000-meter steeplechase since August 2018, American record holder Evan Jager ran 8:34.89 to finish second at the Mt. SAC Relays on Thursday night in a race won by Japanese Olympian Ryoma Aoki in 8:33.33 (Aoki’s pb is 8:20.70). Jager was content to stay just behind the leader for most of the race before taking the lead with 300 meters to go. He looked to be on his way to a victory in his return, but Aoki passed him coming out of the final water jump and pulled away to win in the home straight. Jager ran his last lap in 65.59.
It has been a trying four years for Jager, 33, a two-time global medalist and the greatest steepler the US has ever produced. Banged up in 2018, he fractured the talus bone in his foot during that year’s Diamond League final – his last completed race before tonight – and wound up missing the entire 2019 season. He raced seven times in 2020 but no steeples as there were few tracks with water jumps available due to COVID. Last year, he paced his Bowerman Track Club teammate Sean McGorty in the steeple at the USATF Golden Games at Mt. SAC in May but did not race at all after that, withdrawing from the Olympic Trials with a torn calf.
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Jager’s time tonight was well off the World Championship standard of 8:22.00 and was also slower than the standard for the USATF Championships in June (8:29.00).
Quick Take: This was not a good result
Unless Jager was told not to run hard under any circumstances, it’s impossible to not view this race as disappointing. Watching the race, we figured he had been given strict instruction to run with the pack, but we expected him to BLAST everyone at some point — whether it was the last 1k, last 400 or last 200. That did not happen.
In his 31 career races in the event (not counting prelims), Evan Jager has never run a steeplechase this slow in his life. His previous slowest non-prelim steeplechase was the first steeplechase of his life, 8:26.14, which Jager ran at Mt. SAC 10 years ago. His next slowest non-prelim? An 8:23.87 that he ran to get 6th in the 2012 Olympic final (8:18 winning time).
Quick Take: Silver linings
If you are a Jager fan searching for a silver lining, we have four of them. The first is that he finished the race. That alone means Jager is closer to returning to a global championship than at any point in the last three-and-a-half years. He clearly has some work to do, but he has over two months until USAs and three months until Worlds.
Silver lining #2 is that Jager ran 13:13 for 5,000 two months ago at BU. A 13:13 in super spikes isn’t worth what it was when Jager was in his prime in the mid-2010s, but it’s still a solid result and indicates better than 8:35 fitness in the steeple.
The third is Jager ran a big negative split. Most steeples feature a fast first lap. This one did not. The first full lap from the finish line was just a 69.57 (If Jager ran all of his laps at that pace, he would have run 8:45). His next to laps were even slower 70.09 and 70.03. We estimate he ran something like 4:22 for the first half and 4:12 for the second.
Finally, an 8:35 debut by no means kills his chances for making the Worlds team or even making the final. American Benard Keter opened up at 8:39 last year and ended up running 8:17 on the year and finishing 11th in the Olympic final.
Talk about the race on our world-famous messageboard. MB: Evan Jager Steeple Watch – He Runs at Mt. Sac at 10:25 eastern tonight!