Jager races his way back to Olympics - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Jager races his way back to Olympics

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EUGENE, Ore. – Last time he was here, he was the upstart. This time around, Evan Jager came to the U.S. Olympic Trials as the American standard-bearer.

The result was the same, with Jager once again positioning himself to carry the banner for the United States in the steeplechase at the Olympic Games.

The former University of Wisconsin athlete won his fifth-consecutive U.S. championship in the 3000-meter steeplechase on Friday, earning a return trip to the Olympics in the process. Jager clocked a winning time of 8 minutes, 22.48 seconds at Hayward Field to successfully defend his U.S. Olympic Trials title from 2012.

“I’m still hungry and I have goals I want to achieve, and that keeps me motivated,” Jager said.

Among those goals: Jager seeks to become the first U.S. athlete to medal in the steeplechase since 1984 and has a chance to be the first American to win gold since Horace Ashenfelter in 1952. He also hopes to become the first non-African to break 8 minutes in the event.

Jager is the fourth UW product to earn a spot on the track in Rio de Janeiro. He’ll join fellow Americans Zach Ziemek (men’s decathlon) and Kelsey Card (women’s discus), along with Canadian 5000 meters champion Mohammed Ahmed, his training partner with the Portland-based Bowerman Track Club led by former Badgers distance coach Jerry Schumacher.

In addition, former Badgers track standout Gwen Jorgensen, a two-time Big Ten champion at UW, heads to Rio as the gold medal favorite in the women’s triathlon after winning the last two world titles in dominant fashion.

Jager, who holds the American record in the steeplechase at 8:00.45, finished sixth in his Olympic debut in London in 2012 and then took fifth at the 2013 IAAF World Championships and was sixth in 2015.

His win at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials came in just his fourth-ever race in the event. Though he was new to the steeplechase, Jager was not new to the world stage. He had previously finished third at the 2009 U.S. Championships in the 5000 meters -- completing a 1-2-3 sweep of the event by former Badgers behind fellow UW products Matt Tegenkamp and Chris Solinsky – to qualify for the IAAF world championships.

All told, Jager has qualified to represent the U.S. in five of the last six world championship meets, including the Olympics in 2012 and 2016. His only miss came in 2011, when he finished 12th in the 1500 meters at the U.S. championships while battling back from injury (2010 and 2014 were non-championship years).

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