Monday, August 6, 2012
Algonquin Native Takes Sixth In Olympic Steeplechase
Local interest in the 2007 Jacobs High School graduate's race was intense. "I had three calls in a row from people asking, 'What channel's it on?'" said Wild Wings cashier Alex Ludwig. "I had to explain it was on the Internet."
"USA, USA," chanted the crowd as Jager and teammate Don Cabral sprang to an early lead at the 1,000 meter mark. "Ooooh," was the cry when Jager nearly collided with stumbling Olympic champ Brimin Kipruto. Then there was comparative silence as Ezekiel Kemboi and a pack of mostly fellow-Kenyans kicked in the afterburners and sprinted away from Jager and Cabral at the end of the race.
“They took off with 400 to go and I couldn’t respond," said Jager after the race. "I was a little disappointed they pulled away that easily, but it was a good experience.”
Experience, or lack thereof, was probably the determining factor in Jager's race. It was only the seventh the 23-year old had ever run since he first tried steeplechasing in April. Observers agreed it was a "strategic" race, the second slowest in the past 40 years of Olympic competition. It was also a "physical" race with lots of pushing and shoving, notably by eventual silver-medalist Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad. "It was definitely the roughest race I have been in," said Jager.
Jager's sixth-place finish Sunday was the best for U.S. Steeplechasers since Mark Croghan's fifth in 1996. Here are the results:
1. Ezekiel Kemboi (Kenya) 8:18.56 seconds
2. Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad (France) 8:19.08
3. Abel Kiprop Mutai (Kenya) 8:19.73
4. Roba Gari (Ethiopia) 8:20.00
5. Brimin Kiprop Kipruto (Kenya) 8:23.03
6. Evan Jager (U.S.) 8:23.87
7. Hamid Ezzine (Morocco) 8:24.90
8. Donald Cabral (U.S.) 8:25.91
In the pic: Most spectators at Sunday's "Watch Evan Race" celebration didn't notice the remarkable feats of strength and coordination by Wild Wings' waitresses balancing giant trays of chicken. They should have got extra points for not spilling ranch dressing down anyone's neck but it wasn't clear if that earned them any gold.