When Evan Jager entered his final race at historic Hayward Field in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2018 Prefontaine Classic, he came relaxed and free of expectations.
“I was focused on staying relaxed and tried not to think about anything all race,” Jager said.
Jager, the American record-holder in the steeplechase at 8:00.45, finished third with a time of 8:11.71, only two-thousandths of a second behind runner-up Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya. Despite the result, Jager felt positive about his outcome.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “I felt like I was in a great rhythm. I knew the race wasn’t going to go too fast. I just wanted to sit in behind Conseslus and let him push the pace and do the work.”
Still, Jager believes he could have been more aggressive in the race, especially when Kenya’s Ben Kigen, the eventual winner in 8:09.07, started pushing down the backstretch.
“Kigen made a hard push in the back stretch and I probably could’ve been a little more aggressive the last 300 but I saw Conseslus in front of me and I wanted to use him,” Jager said. “I was hoping he was going to make the move to stay with (Kigen), but he didn’t so I think I just hesitated. I could’ve made a bigger move, but I really wanted to focus on having a fast last 200.”
With the outdoor season just getting under way, Jager and his competitors are far from peak form. However, he was encouraged to see Kipruto become a leader in the event.
“It’s still so early in the year I know Conseslus isn’t at his peak right now, I know I’m not at my peak right now,” Jager said. “There are two other major players that weren’t (at Pre), maybe he just had a day but maybe he’s going to be the next guy.”
Jager’s only other outdoor appearance this season came at the Brian Clay Invitational in mid-April where he won the 5,000m. Moving forward, Jager said he is still focused on breaking the 8-minute barrier in the steeplechase. His PR of 8:00.45 stands as the American record.
One aspect that continues to reflect his efforts as he continues to improve is his fitness level. While he acknowledges he still has more to work on, Jager’s comfortable with his current situation.
“I think it’s pretty good,” Jager said of his fitness level. “My training has been going really well; we’ve been up at altitude for the last month haven’t had any hiccups. I feel strong and pretty fast running.”
When asked if he has considered competing in other events, Jager said he’s focused on running a sub-8 race before anything else.
“I think sub-8 is the biggest goal this year,” he said. “If we get that done I could step back and open up the door for more options.”
Jager knows all too well that he has to watch his pace in order to reach that goal. In his case, that meant going at a comfortable pace at the Pre Classic so he could remain healthy for the rest of the season.
“I don’t want to do anything stupid and cost myself the win by trying to solo 8 flat,” he said. “It’s hard to do that. I’d rather save it for the Diamond League.”
Next up for Jager is the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Des Moines (June 21-24), followed by the Diamond League meeting in Monaco on July 20.