Jacobs coach knew Olympian had something special

From local high school distance runner to the Olympics in five short years.

Evan Jager, a 2007 graduate of Algonquin's Jacobs High School, qualified Thursday for the U.S. Olympic track and field team by winning the men's 3000-meter steeplechase, a race he hadn't run competitively until two months ago, at the Olympic Trials in Oregon.

Jager, easily picked out of a crowd by his enormous head of blond hair and fashionable headbands - and the fact that he always seemed leading the pack - has come many miles in his quest.

But his high school coach says in spite of all the miles Jager has logged since high school, he's the same kid.

"Evan hasn't changed," Jacobs coach Jason Borhart said after watching Jager's TV interview. "With his hair, you can always pick out Evan."

More than that, though, Borhart said he's a good kid.

Before Evan went to high school, he played soccer and had to choose between it and running.

Borhart and the rest of the coaching staff knew Evan was special. "I would put him as one of the most athletic kids to ever come through (Jacobs)," Borhart said. "We knew he was going to do some great things."

Jager broke three school records in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter races. He also took first in the state competitions for the 2-mile relay, the 1,600-meter run, 3,200-meter run and cross country.

Four state titles in four different events "just speaks to his all around athleticism," Borhart said.

The 2-mile relay has stuck with Borhart the longest, though.

As a junior, Jager had the opportunity to win a state title on his own in a distance event but chose not to. Many coaches, teammates and competitors thought it was a terrible idea, Borhart recalls. "He wanted to run with his teammates and give them the opportunity to win a state championship," he said. He is very unselfish, Borhart said.

Little did everyone know then that the relay team would win state and set a record.

"He did a lot of things for a lot of people; he kind of made track a more glamorous event," Borhart said.

Jacobs coaches weren't the only ones to see Jager's promise. He went on to run for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A year later, he went pro. He was picked up by Nike to run for the Oregon Track Club and sponsored by KIMbia Athletics.

Jager competed as a distance runner for almost all of his career. It was not until recently he became a steeplechase competitor. The steeplechase is an event where runners pass through 28 barriers and seven water jumps in 3,000 meters. Steeplechase is not a high school event, and because of that, Evan didn't run it throughout his career.

"Today was my fourth steeplechase," Jager said during a news conference Thursday after winning in the Olympic trials. "I wasn't really worried about my lack of experience coming into the trials because the steeple felt so natural. My first race I was just a few seconds under the 'A' standard, so I was pretty confident I could come and compete with these guys."

Borhart said many people knew he was good, but not many realized he was Olympics good. The 2009 world championship opened a lot of people's eyes, Borhardt said. With a third-place finish in the U.S. championships, Jager qualified for the 5,000-meter run at the world meet.

When Borhart was watching Thursday's race, he noticed Evan gaining steps after he jumped a barrier. "He is getting into them and out of them much easier than other runners," Borhart said. "He made everything look easy."

Jager is a comparatively young Olympic runner.

"It's going to be exciting," Borhart said, though he knows the competition just gets harder from here and Jager will need to train himself to get a jump on more competitive runners. "He's a competitor. and I know he's going to give it everything he's got ... I can tell he's got more in him."

Evan Jager leads the 1600-meter run during a track meet at Naperville North High School during his junior year at Jacobs. He won four state titles in four events during his high school career. He turned pro after a year at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jager qualified for the London Olympics in just his fourth steeplechase entry.$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Paul Michna/, 2006$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$
  Evan Jager, center, is flanked by friends and supporters after his state cross country title win in Peoria. Laura Stoecker/, 2006
  In high school, Evan Jager’s hair was his brand. That and his great speed, of course. Friends wore these T-shirts to meets. Laura Stoecker/, 2006
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