Evan Jager, the American record-holder in the 3,000-meter Steeplechase, will be lacing up for the U.S. Track and Field Trials, July 1-10, when he will compete to qualify for his second Summer Games. While he is proud of breaking the U.S. record with a time of 8:00.45 at the Paris Diamond League one year ago, his celebrated feat was even more remarkable for the outcome: He didn’t win it. In fact, he fell over the last hurdle.
With vivid memory, Evan reflects on a moment that defined him, not for losing, but for nearly accomplishing what many had believed was unattainable for an American: He nearly defeated the mighty Kenyans who have dominated Steeplechase for decades. As he looks back on his career, Evan shares his thoughts on that moment – and more – detailing his dedication to Steeplechase.
What exactly is Steeplechase?
The short answer is that Steeplechase is long distance hurdling. If I were to go into more detail, it’s a 3,000-meter obstacle race, where each runner must clear a total of 28 ordinary barriers and seven water jumps, including a 12-foot long water pit.
What makes Steeplechase different than other distance races?
There’s a lot more to think about and to focus on. It requires a little bit of everything as a distance runner. You need good endurance and speed, good athleticism and awareness of your surroundings. You’re worrying about where the other guys are while [also] trying to navigate these barriers. When it comes to the Steeplechase, you’re constantly having your rhythm broken and you have to be athletic enough to navigate these barriers and still have smooth running.
What got you interested in Steeplechase?
Steeplechase always interested me and it’s a lot of fun. It’s completely different from everything else, so it adds a different challenge. It’s also an event that not everyone can do. It’s very chaotic and hectic. From an outsider’s perspective, it may look kind of crazy, but for me, it’s extremely fun because it requires so many different pieces of the puzzle to make a great Steeplechase. It’s really fun when you get all those things to come together.
One of your biggest moments was at the Paris Diamond League in 2015. How was that race pivotal for your career, and the world of Track and Field?
I was very disappointed after that race because I should have won, and I should have broken eight minutes. But. I just couldn’t close it out. Despite being extremely hard on myself for over two days, I had so many people saying positive things about that race. I was not expecting that — especially with the fall. Most of the talk that I heard was how big of a moment that was for U.S. Track and Field — and not just the steeplechase. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a performance like that on the men’s side where an athlete has completely broken away from the field and really stretched the best in the world, passed their capabilities and dominated a race until the last barrier. Obviously I wish that I had finished off the race, but I was pretty proud of what I did.
It’s back to breaking barriers for Evan. On July 8, the star will race the 3,000-meter event at the Track and Field Trials in Oregon. We can’t wait to watch.
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