Evan Jager Is Favored To Change The History Of Steepling In London

Jager Poised To Alter Steepling History
The 2017 IAAF World Championships are right around the corner! Check out the breakdown of the men's 3k steeplechase below.

Men's 3k Steeplechase

August 6, 4:05 AM CT (heats)
August 8, 3:10 PM CT (final)

Top International Contenders: Conseslus Kipruto (Kenya), Ezekiel Kemboi (Kenya), Soufiane El Bakkali (Morocco)

Team USA: Evan Jager, Hillary Bor, Stanley Kebenei

2016 Olympic Steeplechase Final:


1 Conseslus Kipruto KEN 8:03.28 YES
2 Evan Jager USA 8:04.28 YES
3 Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad FRA 8:11.52 YES
4 Soufiane El Bakkali MAR 8:14.35 YES
5 Yoann Kowal FRA 8:16.75 YES
6 Brimin Kipruto KEN 8:18.79 YES
7 Hillary Bor USA 8:22.74 YES
8 Donn Cabral USA 8:25.81
9 Altobeli da Silva BRA 8:26.30 YES
10 Matt Hughes CAN 8:36.83 YES
11 Yemane Haileselassie ERI 8:40.68 TBA
N/A Ezekiel Kemboi KEN DQ (Originally 8:08.47) YES
*TBA - athlete's federation has not yet announced official roster for London

When we think of some of the most memorable performances of all time in our sport, it's usually because an athlete totally flips the script due to extraordinary circumstances in the race. Dave Wottle won that fantastic '72 800m because the field got out way too fast. Centro won his metric mile gold by making it the slowest Olympic final since 1932. Billy Mills upset the Olympic 10K field by running on the outside lanes which had more traction. There's a pattern here: When an American has a shot to win an international distance race, we hope for the field to get out differently than they usually do. We hope for a different race.

In 2017, the script is clear: Kenyans have a history of excellence at the steeplechase, owning over 700 of the history's top 1000 performances and being the only nation in any event to go 1-2-3-4 at the last World Championships in 2015. Being the favorite in 2017, Evan Jager is ready to flip that script. But what makes Jager's situation so special is that he can beat the Kenyans at their own game. No outside-lane-running, no tactical brilliance required. Jager can run.

As a 3:32 1500m, 13:01 5K runner, Jager is one of the fastest Americans in history, with or without steeple barriers. But he first demonstrated that he could truly do something special on the world stage at the 2015 Paris Diamond League, when he was less than fifty meters away from becoming the first American man to ever win a DL steeple, with a sizable lead over 2014 Diamond Race winner Jarius Birech, and on pace to crush the American record (possibly even threatening the world record) before this happened:

That moment seemed it may haunt Jager for the rest of his career, especially after a disappointing sixth-place finish at Worlds that year. But Jager persevered to earn a silver medal in Rio the next year, and in Monaco last week, Jager finally got his DL win in a nice World-leading time of 8:01 that cemented his place as the man to beat in London. Though he wasn't pushed in that race, Jager has also proven he can close with the best of them with an impressive 56.70 last lap over barriers at the U.S. Championships.

Jager has clearly got a lot going for him, but his path to gold will be far from a cakewalk. The only man who beat him at the Olympics, Conseslus Kipruto, is still declared for Worlds despite dropping out of each of his last three races. His injury status is still up in the air, but if Kipruto shows up in any sort of shape he will no doubt provide a formidable challenge for Jager. On paper, there's no reason to think Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi should even be in this race with an SB of just 8:33, but with two Olympic golds and four world titles to his name, we've learned to never totally count him out. And there's one other Moroccan this year, Soufiane El Bakkali, who has been turning heads of his own, winning the Rabat DL steeplechase in front of his home crowd in an impressive solo 8:05 effort:

If Jager's fitness wasn't enough to get excited about, the two Americans that finished behind him at nationals -- Hillary Bor and Stanley Kebenei -- are also super fit and on the perfect day could maybe even challenge for bronze. Kebenei's 8:08 at Monaco places him fifth on the 2017 World list (and second all-time among Americans), and Bor currently sits at 10th but was seventh at the Olympics last year.

Coming in with the fastest time of the year, this one is Jager's to lose. He'll be hoping for a fast race in London to best capitalize on his fitness -- a strategy antithetical to that of just about every other American distance hope this year. But that's what's so special about Jager -- if he wins in London, there will be no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Why Allie Ostrander Is Taking A Stand Against Body-Focused Commentary

With two laps to go in the NCAA Division I women’s steeplechase final at the University of Texas’ Mike A. Myers Stadium earlier this month, Boise State's Allie Ostrander surged to what would be a winning lead, and her third straight national title in the event—a streak no other collegiate woman can claim. 

Weekend Recap: The Women's 100m Just Got A Lot More Interesting

Not much was expected in terms of exciting track and field in a week with no Diamond League meets on the calendar, but the stars of the sport exceeded expectations with fast times and strong marks coming from the Ostrava Golden Spike on Thursday and the Jamaican National Championships over the weekend.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Briana Williams Sets 100m High School National Record With 10.94

Northeast (FL) High School junior Briana Williams smashed the national high school, world U18 and Jamaican U20 records in the 100m when she clocked a 10.94 to finish third at the Jamaica Senior Championships Friday night in Kingston.

Exposing How Stupid IAAF's New World Rankings Truly Are

As most of you know, earlier this year, the IAAF announced their new World Ranking system, which will be used in part to select future global championship fields. I wrote about how dumb the rankings were when they came out, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that Kim Conley reminded me how stupid IAAF's new World Rankings truly are.

POLL: Which Men's Bowerman Finalist Should Win?

Today, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced this year's men's Bowerman finalists: LSU's Armand "Mondo" Duplantis, Florida's Grant Holloway, and Texas Tech's Divine Oduduru.

Matthew Boling Nominated For 'Record-Breaking Performance' ESPY


It was the kind of magical performance we rarely see in high school track and field. 

De Grasse Beats Coleman, Miller-Uibo Smashes 300m World Best

The 58th Ostrava Golden Spike meeting, an IAAF World Challenge event, went down on Thursday in the Czech Republic, with Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo running a world best and silver medalist Andre De Grasse announcing his return to the top of the sport.

House Of Run: Which DL Events Have Clear Favorites Already?

Jason and Kevin discuss Sydney McLaughlin’s Diamond League debut win, Christian Coleman’s world lead, the current state of the women’s 800m, Tori Bowie’s season debut, Marcin Lewandowski’s medal potential and Genzebe Dibaba’s chances at gold in Doha.

The Unofficial 2019 Track And Field Mock Draft

Let’s imagine a utopian world where professional track and field was like every major sport, and top prospects wishing to be paid for their services could be selected in an amateur draft. Never mind that a singular league comprised of individual teams could never exist in a sport as disparate as track and field, where various elements of running, jumping and throwing are all encompassed under one roof. We’re not getting caught up in logistics here. So in honor of tonight’s NBA Draft, here is a very fake but totally fun track and field mock draft order for either those who have announced their intentions to go pro in 2019 or, in Matthew Boling’s case, a pre-college 19-year-old who would be age-eligible under the NBA’s rules.

7 Events To Watch At USA Junior Nationals

Women's 800m - Hurta 2:00, Athing Mu 2:01

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

The USA Track and Field Junior National Championships is bound to be one of the best meets of the spring season.