LONDON (CBS) – Runner Evan Jager finished sixth in the final of the Men’s Steeplechase on Sunday, but that hardly fazed the nearly 200 or more supporters who gathered at a local restaurant to watch the Algonquin-native compete for his first Olympic medal.
“We’re still very proud of him,” said Kevin Christian, one of Jager’s former coaches at Jacobs High School in Algonquin. “He could’ve done anything in that race and we would have been happy with it.”
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Jager, a 2007 Jacobs grad, had a time of 8:23.87 in Sunday’s final, five seconds off the time of gold medal winner Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya who finished at 8:1.:56. Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France took the silver in 8:19.08, while Kenya’s Abel Kiprop Mutai won the bronze in 8:19.73.
Back in Algonquin, Jager’s supporters chanted “USA, USA” as the 23-year old rounded the track. They were hoping for a medal finish but there was not a sad face in the crowd.
“It would have been nice to get a medal but he’s got one maybe two more chances of getting one,” said Christian. “He’s going to be there in 2016. “Christian was assistant coach when Jager attended Jacobs. He is now head coach for cross country and distance.
Jager is the American record holder in the Steeplechase, an amazing accomplishment in its own right because he’s only been running the race for about a year and only in competition a handful of times. He took up Steeplechase on a whim after failing to make the Worlds team in 2011 in the 1,500-meter. The Steeplechase is a 3,000-meter race that includes
“It’s absolutely nuts,” said Christian. “No one is supposed to get that good that quick at an event, which just gets you more excited for what he’s going to do in the future. To, on your fifth try to set an American record? The sky’s the limit for how good he could get at this event.”
Jager has earned hero status in his hometown, where his father and mother Joel and Cathy Jager still reside. They made the trip to London to cheer Evan on.
“I’d be shocked if they don’t have a parade the second he gets off the plane,” said Christian about possible homecoming plans for Jager. “Out here in Algonquin or even the whole McHenry area, we couldn’t think of any other Olympian or anyone else close to this stature. Just being there (at the Olympics) warrants a giant acceptance back home.”
Christian said he can’t take credit for Jager’s athletic success but he does want people to know that he’s the first person to ever mention to Jager that he should try Steeplechase. “He ignored that advice for four years,” he added.
Jager took to Twitter after the race to thank his fans including those supporters back here in the Chicago-area. “I honestly couldn’t say thank you enough times to everyone who has supported me this year! This has been such a special year. I was really wishing I could have brought home a medal for you guys but I have a lot more work to do before I can do that.”