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By Justin Lagat 
The men's steeple was one of my most anticipated races. It lived up to the hype. Yes, I hoped for Evan Jager to win the gold (as he did), but he battled on, taking bronze, getting first steeple medal for an American male in the World Championships.
 
Conseslus Kipruto single-handedly prevents a potential dethronement of Kenyans in the men's 3000m steeplechase.
 
Just like the East African runners had been seen to be plotting on how to dethrone Mo Farah in the men's 10,000m race for a while now, the rest of the world seem to have as well been, for even a longer time, plotting to beat the Kenyans in their most successful race at the world and Olympic championships; the men's 3000m.
 
With a world leading time by Evan Jager of the US a few weeks to the championships and Morroco's Soufiane El Bakkali having also shown great form by winning two IAAF Diamond League races ahead of the championships, many were rightfully predicting the first win by a non-Kenyan at the world championships since 1987, except if one wants to count out Kenyan-born Saif Shaheen who won the titles in 2003 and 2005 as a non-Kenyan.
Published in Track & Field
From our friends at RunBlogRun, here are some deep thoughts from Stuart Weir on the Monaco DL, and how it adds to the excitement of the buildup to the London 2017 World Championships, August 4-13.
 
Winners and Losers
If an athlete wins gold at the World Championships, no one will remember a bad Diamond League performance. And projecting forward it is important not to rule someone out of World Championship contention on the back of a poor result in Lausanne or Monaco.
 
Now ignoring the caveat, what can we learn about London from what happened in Monaco?
 
Winners
Kori Carter (USA, women's 400H) is in the form of her life. She ran a sub 53 PR in the US Trials and then won the race in Monaco.
 
Mariya Lasitskene (Russian high jumper but competing as a neutral in London) cleared 2.05 in Monaco and looks untouchable.
 
Hellen Obiri (Kenya, 5000m) is another athlete in the form of her life, winning the 3000m in Monaco and races everywhere else you can mention.
 
Wayde Van Niekerk (South Africa 400 - or anything from 100 to 800!) won in Monaco and talked without arrogance about when, rather than if, he would go sub 43.
 
 
Losers
Renaud Lavillenie (France, pole vault) is one of my favourite athletes. He is the only one you can compare to Bolt for the way he can reduce an arena to silent concentration when he is about to jump. In Monaco he failed at 5.82 and the days when he was always threatening six metres have been few and far-between recently.
 
Asbel Kiprop (Kenya 1500) came to Monaco in July 2016 not having lost a 1500m race for a year. He was beaten that night, finished out of the medals in Rio and since then little has gone right. In Monaco this week he finished 11th.
 
Of course, both might turn it around in the next two weeks - but for both the customary swagger and sense of being in control looks to have vanished.
 
 
Anticipation
There are so many races in London that I can't wait for:
Can Mo Farah retain his 5000m and 10000m titles?
Can Elaine Thompson dominate the 100m and the 200m like she did in Rio?
The men's 100m
Can Christian Taylor not only retain his world title but also get beyond Jonathan Edwards' 22 year old world record?
 
To that list I am adding the women's 800m. Can either Francine Niyonsaba or Ajee' Wilson who pushed Caster Semanya so hard in Monaco actually beat her in London?
 
If Only
Skarika Nelvis (USA, 100H) looks to be in the form of her life. She won the Diamond League race in Lausanne and lost to Kendra Harrison in Monaco only by a hundredth of a second in a photo finish. But Nelvis failed to make the US team for London.
 
But with all this happening, I think I am going to enjoy the IAAF World Championships in London next month.
Published in Track & Field

by Dave Hunter

June 25, 2017, Sacramento

 

It is difficult enough for track & field athletes to religiously hone their craft in the never-ending drive to be among their country's best. But it is only in very rare circumstances when an even more remarkable performer can rise not simply to be among the country's best, but to be the country's dominating performer in that event. Today, steeplechase specialist Evan Jager showed once again that he is such an athlete.

 

After Jager left the University of Wisconsin to turn professional, it took a while for the Illinois native to find his best event. After dabbling with the longer, flat distance events, the young professional decided in 2012 to give the steeplechase a whirl.

Perhaps we should have known what was in store when Jager ran 8:06.81 to set the American record in only his 5 attempt at the 3000 meter barriered event. Since then, he has further lowered his American best several times to 8:00.45, been a two-time world championship steeplechase finalist, and made the Olympic steeple finals both in London and in Rio where he captured the silver medal. And today - under Sacramento's blazing sun and in oven-like conditions - the 28-year-old Nike athlete won his fifth national steeplechase title.

 

Thirteen other steeplechasers joined Jager in today's final. It is doubtful any honestly thought they could defeat the Olympic silver medalist. Their focus had to be upon securing one of the two remaining world championship berths. As the race got underway, Saucony's Brian Shrader and Michael ["Not Air"] Jordan rushed to the front to set the early pace. It was a modest tempo as the field respected the oppressive weather conditions. Jager - who two years ago set a 1500 meter personal best of 3:32.97 - was not likely rattled by the lighter cadence and the bunched competitors that surrounded him in the opening lap. In the second circuit, the Bowerman Track Club athlete moved up to fifth and then eventually slid into third within a pack that included Schrader, Haron Lagat, Olympian and American leader Hillary Bor, former Indiana star Andrew Bayer, and Nike's Stanley Kibenei. With just under a mile remaining, Lagat surged to the front, with both Bor and Jager covering Lagat's move. 

 

Just inside 3 laps remaining, Jager decided it was time for him to take the steering wheel as he easily moved to the front. Instead of unleashing a long kick, the American record holder throttled down the cadence as a pack of fully 10 crowded athletes hit the start/finish line together with 2 laps remaining. Jager took command for good with a powerful drive over the penultimate water jump - somewhat separating himself from his pursuers. By the bell, Kibenei, Bor, and Bayer had joined Jager in the breakaway. It had become a game of musical chairs: 4 athletes vying for 3 tickets to London. With half a lap remaining, the final positions remained undecided until Jager unleashed an aggressive, and speedy clearance of the final water barrier - a dramatic tactic reminiscent of the East Africans that drew "ooohs" in the press box. Jager's water jump move sparked his finish for the win in 8:16.88, while the remaining spots were still up for grabs. Teammates Kebenei and Bor hugged the rail over the final barrier, denying a driving Bayer of any hope of an inside pass. A desperate dive by Bayer [8:18.90] at the line proved unsuccessful as Kibenei [8:18.54] and Bor [8:18.83] snared the last two world championship tickets.

 

In the media tent, Bayer recounted those final meters. "The thing that I haven't quite done well yet is learn to kick on the homestretch in the steeple. It's a hard thing to do. I was coming back on Hillary," said Bayer, knowing he was running out of time. "So I went wide and I almost made it by..."

 

Second-placer Kebenei gave credit to his heavier and consistent training regimen. "This is the result of training, training, training. I've gone from running 60 miles a week to running 105 a week. I ran pretty easy today, so I'm thankful. I want to go to London and see if I can come away with a medal."

 

Not at his best in the Sacramento heat, Bor had to really battle to make the London squad. "That was tough. I did not feel good. I did not feel good on Friday. I did not feel good today. That was the toughest race I have ever done in a long time. I think the heat I guess. I think it was because of the heat. I am glad I made the team."

 

The now 5-time national champion offered insight into his race plan in the mixed zone. "The steeple is really coming around, and it just makes it harder to win," declared Jager afterwards. "I knew it was going to be hard. It was a little windy; I didn't want to be in the lead for four and a half laps like last year. So I wanted to wait, kind of trust my speed and my hurdling form and technique against the rest of the guys. I just wanted to stay relaxed as long as possible and when I went making it a hard move and just use the benefits of being in the lead while running fast over the barriers to my advantage." The winner commented on his last two water jump clearances. "Jerry [coach Schumacher] made sure I would stay focused [over the final 800 meters] going over that water jump and be very powerful and very strong when I land and use that as a way to just beat the guys instead of sprinting away from them. It felt really good." Dave Hunter

Published in Track & Field
Updated 9.15 PM, August 17, 2016. Ezekial Kemboi has been DQed over rule 163.3.
 
BY LARRY EDER—In a brilliant and gutty run, Evan Jager took over the steeple final at three minutes and twenty seconds into the race, broke the race open, stayed calm and collected and caught Ezekial Kemboi on the final straight, to bring the US a silver medal, the highest men's US finish since 1952 and the first men's steeple medal since 1984! Conseslus Kipruto won the steeplechase, with Ezekial Kemboi, Olympic champion from 2004 and 2012, taking the bronze.
 
This race was the work of a team. Under the thoughtful eyes of Coaches Jerry Schumacher and Pascal Dobert, the Bowerman AC team were prepared. Schumacher and Dobert honed the skills of Jager over the barriers and the flats.
Published in Track & Field