Jumpin' Jack Flash
On the night Princeton's Donn Cabral broke the American college record in the steeplechase at the Oxy High Performance meet in California, the U.S. didn't suddenly have a single new global threat in the event. It had two.
You see Evan Jager — a 23-year-old who left the University of Wisconsin to turn pro after just one year — had found his event. Despite horrendous technique over the barriers, particularly the water jump, Jager was beating Cabral. Until the final leap into the water when Jager missed the barrier and face-planted.
Cabral won and broke the record while Jager — in just his second competitive steeplechase — staggered home just a few seconds behind. While Cabral was cheered, many simply wondered what might Jager be able to run. If his barrier deficiencies were costing him a second or two per lap and his final-lap swim cost another five seconds, the neophyte might well break the American record. But how soon?
Friday, at the Diamond League meet in Monaco, came the answer. In a star-studded field, Jager broke Daniel Lincoln's two-year-old American mark by running 8:06.81. Suddenly, the U.S. has a medal contender?
"I'm just pumped that I got the [U.S.] record," Jager told Flotrack. "I thought it might have been a possiblity judging how workouts have been going … This was my first international race with a pacer going out really hard. I didn’t know exactly what to expect."
Now no one knows what to expect. Kenyans have absolutely dominated the steeplechase scene for four decades now, but suddenly Jager's time puts him in the mix. And the Monaco run was just his fifth race.
And don't count out Cabral. He has been doing speed work in Italy, running a personal-best 3:40 in the 1,500 meters earlier in the week. He hopes to unleash something in the 8:10 range at the Games.
The steeple is back!