As a kid growing up in Algonquin, Illinois Evan Jager was like the Energizer Bunny, he just kept going and going. Jager's endurance and love for running transitioned from soccer to track and field and has propelled him to success on every level of competition. The new American Record Holder in the 3000m steeplechase talks to MileSplit's Todd Grasley about his Road To London and his quest for gold at the 2012 Olympics.
How did you get started in the sport?
I grew up playing soccer my entire childhood. From the time I was four all the way up until high school. I was always one of the kids that was able to run up and down the field constantly, throughout the entire game, without needing a sub. I remember being in 6th grade wanting to run on the cross country and track and field teams that were only available for 7th and 8th graders. I signed up for cross country right away when Igot to 7th grade and fell in love with the sport instantly.
What do you remember most about your high school running days in Illinois?
What I remember most about running in high school was having fun everyday at practice with my teammates, running as hard as I could in workouts because I didn't know any better, and how much fun I had winning all the races I did.
As a junior you finish 9th at Foot Locker Nationals. As a senior you go 8:49 to finish fourth at Nike Nationals? Was that your first exposure on a national stage? When did you finally realize hey I can be great?
Yeah, I would say qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals and finishing 9th there was my first exposure of any kind on the national level. I feel like I started believing I could have the chance to run professionally either during my sophomore or junior year of high school.
What was the recruiting process out of high school like for you?
I remember being recruited by a bunch of different schools making me feel very special. It was kind of a cool feeling knowing all these different schools wanted you to come run for them. At times it was pretty stressful knowing that this decision was going to affect you for the next four or five years of your life.
You ultimately choose to run at the University of Wisconsin, but were only there for a short term before turning pro. What was your experience like as a Badger?
I ran both indoor and outdoor track while at Wisconsin. I was a part of the 3rd place finishing DMR team during indoor and finished 8th in the 1500m at the outdoor championships. I turned pro at the end of summer after my freshman year.
There were some familiar faces up in Portland when you decided to train up there. Former Wisconsin stars Matt Tegencamp and Chris Solinsky along with your coach Jerry Schumacher. How did those guys help with your transition to becoming a professional?
I didn't train very often with Matt and Chris while at Wisconsin, but when I did I tried to take in any information that they gave me because they were so much better than me and I looked up to them. In Portland, I was still the young guy so I still tried to absorb as much information as I could from them. Jerry has been an incredible coach. He was the reason I ultimately chose to go to Wisconsin and felt an immediate coach/runner bond as soon as I got to Madison. Jerry has shaped me into the runner I am today.
Recently you set a new American Record in the 3000m steeplechase by running 8:06.31. How does it feel to be an American Record holder and where does that rank in your list of impressive accomplishments so far in your career?
Being the American Record Holder in the steeple is an awesome feeling. It is really cool being able to say you've run a distance faster than any other American, ever. But, at the same time, winning the US Trials, qualifying for the Olympics and being able to call myself an Olympian was a little more special for me. Winning that race flooded me with all types of emotions.
What does that do for the momentum going into the Olympics? What has your training been like these last couple of months?
In terms of heading into the Olympics, my race in Monaco was huge for my confidence. Being able to run a time like that gives me enough confidence to run well in any type of race. I feel like I can hang in a faster race but I'm also ok with a slower sit and kick race. My training has been very similar to what I have been doing all year although I've been running a little bit lower mileage and my track sessions are faster than what I was doing in the beginning and middle of the season.
You are 23 years old. Did you ever dream this day would come? What does it mean to you to run for the US and what would it mean for you to bring home a medal, let alone a gold?
I have always been the type of athlete that thought I could achieve the highest goals one could set for himself. It is always special to be able to represent your country at the highest level (the Olympics). Our sport measures an athlete's success by making Olympic teams and winning medals. If I was fortunate enough to win a medal that would mean achieving my greatest goal I've ever made for myself.
What advice do you have to high school athletes out there when it comes to life on the track and outside?
I feel like the best advice I can give to high school athletes is to make sure the sport is still fun. The best way to be successful at something is to make sure you're enjoying yourself while you're doing it. It is going to be extremely difficult to find success if you're not having fun.
Outside of track what do you like to do?
Outside of track, I'm a pretty normal guy. What I look forward to the most at the end of the track season is getting home and just spending time with family and hanging out with my friends back home. I moved away from home pretty young so any chance I have to go home and hang out with friends I take it. I like playing video games (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3) and I really enjoy when the NFL season comes around.