June 29, 2012
• USA Olympic Trials Results
EUGENE, Ore. -- Well, that didn’t take long.
Those words apply whether you’re talking specifically about Evan Jager’s run in the 3000-meter steeplechase Thursday or his ascension to the through the event’s ranks over the span of just a few months.
Jager formally announced his status as the United States’ top threat in the steeplechase by winning the event at the 2012 USA Olympic Trials in a personal-best time of 8 minutes, 17.40 seconds.
In doing so, the former University of Wisconsin athlete secured a berth in the Olympic Games to become the fifth with ties to the Badgers’ track and field programs to earn a trip to London.
Jager, who competes for Oregon Track Club Elite, ran the No. 17 time in the world this season despite competing in just the fourth steeplechase of his career.
"It's something I always thought I had a chance of doing really well in," Jager said. "After the first workout, I realized I was really made for it."
With a record crowd of 22,602 urging him down the Hayward Field homestretch for the final time, Jager allowed himself to breathe it all in. He threw up his hands and let out a celebratory scream as he crossed the finish line.
"Pure happiness," Jager said of the moment. "I looked back and saw that I had an Olympic berth secured and the Hayward crowd was going crazy.
"You don't get to enjoy moments like that too often, so I just wanted to live it up."
It will be the second international appearance for Jager since leaving UW after his freshman season in 2008. Shortly after following former Badgers assistant coach Jerry Schumacher to Portland in order to train with OTC, Jager qualified for the 2009 IAAF World Championships in the 5000 meters.
That came as part of a 1-2-3 sweep by former Badgers that saw Jager join Matt Tegenkamp and Chris Solinsky to make it an all-UW squad for the U.S. team in Berlin.
A broken bone in his foot derailed most of Jager’s 2010 season, leaving him to spend 2011 getting back to his necessary level of fitness.
"Last year was just a fight to get through the season," Jager said. "The last two years were definitely a huge struggle, but it's been worth it."
A pair of Jager’s former Wisconsin teammates raced their way through to the semifinals of the men’s 1500 meters: 2010 UW graduates Jack Bolas and Craig Miller, both of whom now compete for New Balance and raced in the first heat of the preliminary round.
Miller used a tremendous surge over the final 100 meters of the race, finding running room on the rail and picking off five runners as he moved up the inside to claim the heat win in 3:41.89.
Bolas, meanwhile, advanced to the final by virtue of some defensive running over the race’s final meters, finishing sixth in 3:42.14. He held off reigning NCAA champion Andy Bayer of Indiana by just three one-thousandths of a second for the final automatic qualifying spot.
The duo’s successor did not manage to advance, however. Junior Rob Finnerty led the first 1000 meters of his heat before finally being overtaken. Finnerty slipped backwards once the pace picked up, settling for a ninth-place finish in his section in 3:43.89.
Darren Niedermeyer, a 2005 UW graduate and two-time Big Ten champion for the Badgers, failed to clear the opening height of 17-8 1/2 in the men’s pole vault final.
The Olympic Trials continue tomorrow for the Badgers with the semifinals of the men’s 1500 meters at 6:25 p.m. (CT).