In an impressive debut at the event, Evan Jager on Thursday night won the 3000-meter steeplechase at the Mt. SAC Relays in 8:26.14, just two seconds shy of the Olympic “A” standard and breaking Marc Davis’s 19-year-old meet record.
Jager, 23, competed at 5000 meters in the 2009 IAAF World Championships, then missed most of the 2010 season with a stress fracture. He competed mostly at shorter distances last year as he worked his way back into shape, rounding out his season with a 10th-place finish in the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K in November.
In Thursday’s race, Jager took the lead with 1K remaining.
“I was confident at the point where I made the move,” Jager said in a post-race interview with Flotrack.org, “and [then] I realized it was my first race and I kind of second-guessed myself on whether I should have been there or not.”
Nonetheless, Jager looked strong as he surged on the final lap for a convincing victory over Venezuela’s Jose Pena (8:30.01) and two-time U.S. World Championships steeplechaser Dan Huling (8:33:03).
Jager is coached by Jerry Schumacher of OTC Elite/Portland, with Pascal Dobert, a two-time U.S. Olympic steeplechaser, coaching him in the event at which he plans to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials this summer.
“We knew as long as I could handle the mental and physical grind of the race, this is what we were going to be shooting for at the Trials, so this just kind of reaffirms it,” he said.
Next up for Jager is the Payton Jordan Stanford Invitational in two weeks.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg