EUGENE, Ore. — The rain came down hard at Hayward Field on Friday but American record holder Evan Jager will attempt to end another U.S. medal drought in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase in Rio de Janeiro after winning his second U.S. Olympic Trials title in 8:22.48.
An American has not won a medal in the steeplechase at the Olympics since Brian Lee Diemer took bronze at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. Horace Ashenfelter was the last American to win gold when he won in Helsinki in 1952.
Jager made his first Olympic team when he won the 2012 Trials in just his fourth race in the event. He finished sixth at the Olympics in London. He improved to fifth at the 2013 world championships and then placed sixth at the 2015 worlds in Beijing. At last summer's Paris Diamond League meet, he nearly became the first non-African to break seven-minutes for the steeplechase but fell after clipping the final barrier. He still managed to better his 2014 American record of to 8:04.71 to 8:00.45.
"Last year, with how my summer went, in my mind I thought that my race in Paris meant that I should medal. I put a lot of pressure on myself in a short amount of time. I shifted my mindset into thinking I should medal rather than I could medal. That was a mistake mentally. It stressed me out a bit too much and I think it affected my race."
Kenyans took the top four spots at last summer's world championships but Jager will be fortunate to just have to face three at the Olympics.
"From here on out, my focus and goal is going to be trying to medal in Rio," Jager says. “I think I learned enough from last year that I know where my mentality needs to be going into Rio and my race strategy as well.”
The United States will also send Hillary Bor, a member of the U.S. Army WCAP program, and 2012 Olympian Donn Cabral to Rio de Janeiro in the steeplechase. Cabral made his move from fifth to third place after Stanley Kebenei fell in the water barrier and passed former NCAA champion Andy Bayer in the final 100 meters.
"I'm not very proud of my race but I am proud that I stayed positive and stayed in it as much as I could – knowing that things could go wrong, especially at the Olympic Trials," Cabral says. “I am proud of the fact that I didn't give up. I don't think my race deserves Olympian status but I'd say my attitude throughout does."
The women's team was named Thursday and will be comprised of Emma Coburn, Courtney Frerichs and Colleen Quigley.
Watch the final lap of the men's race below:
Dawn Harper Nelson misses Olympics
Dawn Harper-Nelson has been a member of the U.S. Olympic team since 2008 when she won gold in the women's 100-meter hurdles, and then returned in 2012 to take silver. On Friday, she failed to advance to Saturday’s final, running 13.01 in the semi. Former American record holder Brianna Rollins ran the fastest time of the round with a 12.60.
"I can't believe I'm saying this, 'We're sending someone else to represent us and I won't get that amazing blue uniform. Like are you serious?'" Harper-Nelson says. “This is unreal. I'm sure this will be posted somewhere of me flipping out just now. This is unreal.”
Harper-Nelson will not retire and continue to race on the Diamond League circuit.
Brianna Rollins took the U.S. Olympic Trials crown in 12.34. Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali nabbed the other two Olympic berths.
World championship silver medalist with an early exit
Shamier Little holds the fastest time in the world for the women's 400 meter hurdles with her June NCAA championship victory in 53.51. She ran 55.64 in the semi-final, the sixth fastest time of the day but sixth in her heat. Only the top five advance to the final.
Dalilah Muhammad clocked the fastest time of the day with her 54.14 in her second section of the day. It appears that she will be strongly challenged by 16-year-old Sydney McLaughlin of Union Catholic High School in New Jersey. McLaughlin ran the second-fastest time of the day, finishing in 55.23.
High school sprinters light up the 200
Michael Norman of Vista Murrieta High School in Murrieta, California and Noah Lyles of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials finals in the 200 meters after running impressive 20.21 (-1.1 m/s wind) and 20.26 (3.3 m/s wind) times in the semifinals respectively.
Norman beat world championship silver medalist Justin Gatlin in the first section of the afternoon. Gatlin advanced with his second place finish in 20.23.
The fastest time of the day came from LaShawn Merritt, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 400, who ran a personal best of 19.74.
He remains undecided whether or not he will double with the 200 and 400 at the Olympics in Rio, if he makes the team. No American has won gold medals in both events since Michael Johnson at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Merritt has already qualified for the men's 400 meter team. Allyson Felix also looks to pull off the double on the women's side.