Evan Jager has set an American record in the 3000-meter steeplechase, represented the United States at the 2012 London Olympic Games in the same event and competed all over the world, and still the Jacobs High School graduate places the state title-winning 4x800-meter relay his junior year in the top three performances of his career.
"It was so much fun to be able to bring back the first relay title for the school with three of my best friends," the 23-year-old Jager reminisced Wednesday during a homecoming assembly at Jacobs. "Being able to bring home the state title was absolutely incredible and something that I will cherish forever."
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The Algonquin native received a raucous welcome home from about 900 fans -- many wearing Evan Jager T-shirts. Jager, who graduated from Jacobs in 2007, received a plaque from the village of Algonquin commemorating his American record and Olympic debut. After speaking to the crowd, Jager posed for photos and signed autographs on photographs, school identification cards, running spikes, shorts and T-shirts.
Jacobs cross country coach Kevin Christian said despite all of his successes and newfound celebrity, Jager remains the same down-to-earth person he was as a student.
"I love to see how embarrassed he gets by all the recognition," Christian said. "He doesn't do all of this running for the recognition. He started off running because he wanted to run for Jacobs. Then he wanted to run and represent the University of Wisconsin, and now he represents the United States of America in running. So that's the recognition and that's what he runs for. It is truly amazing how humble he has stayed."
At the Olympics, Jager advanced to the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase and finished sixth.
Jager, who now trains in Portland, said the support he received from the Algonquin community through Facebook and Twitter messages and well wishes via his parents -- Joel and Cathy -- gave him the inspiration he needed to run well.
"I never could have dreamed of the season going as well as it did," Jager said. "It is absolutely a dream come true and it is incredible to be able to share it with so many people who have supported me through the entire year."
Fans like Kaitlin Hall, a 16-year-old sophomore at the school, said Jager is inspiring.
"He is amazing," Hall said. "He is a good role model because he came from Algonquin and he went out and made a name for himself."