ALGONQUIN – Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager did not only talk about his success at the 2016 Rio Olympics while speaking to Jacobs High School students Friday – he also spoke about personal setbacks.
“I know that high school is a hard time for a lot of people, and having close friends was the best thing for me,” Jager said. “Having your little clique is extremely helpful in getting through tough days and knowing that having a bad day in high school is not the end of the world.”
Jager, 28, donated his Olympic uniform Friday during an all-school assembly and also received a Distinguished Alumni Award. The uniform included his jersey, bib and track shoes, along with high school and college jerseys.
“Evan loves this school so much, he is donating some of his most treasured items,” said Kevin Christian, head coach of the boys and girls cross country teams, adding that Evan was a great teammate during his time at Jacobs and had great school spirit.
Jager said winning a medal was a great accomplishment, but being able to share it with Jacobs students makes it even more special.
The Algonquin native graduated from Jacobs in 2007 and visited for the first time since winning a silver medal in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
He reminded students that his success did not come overnight and that he saw setbacks during his career.
“I want to show kids that really unimaginable things are possible if you really love what you’re doing and work really hard at it,” Jager said. “My biggest goal in high school was to someday make it to the Olympics, and I don’t know if I thought of even medaling at the Olympics until later.”
Students watched both his 2016 Olympic win, but also another race in 2015 in Paris, where he tripped and fell just before reaching the finish line. While he still made his personal best time of eight minutes and 0.45 seconds, he said he had to see the silver living in a bad situation.
“That was the most embarrassing moment of my life,” Jager said.
Jager holds the U.S. record for the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
In 2010, he fractured two foot bones during a race, forcing him to take six months off running.
“It was probably the darkest, worst time of my life,” Jager said. “I love running, competing and training, and not being able to do what I love every day was extremely hard for me. That was a huge learning moment for me, realizing sometimes you will have some really hard challenges in life – not just in sports – but you have to use your friends and family to help you out through those times.”
Jager’s jerseys, Hall of Fame picture and a plaque will be displayed at the high school’s athletic entrance.
Next up, Jager is training for the 2020 Olympics, which he said still is a ways away, and he has lots of small goals to accomplish beforehand.
His biggest goal is to become the world’s first non-African runner to break the 8-minute mark in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, something he came close to in Paris.
At Jacobs, Jager won four state titles and represented the U.S. at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin. He went on to attend the University of Wisconsin, but left his sophomore year to go pro for Nike. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Jager also will be at the Algonquin Area Public Library’s first Library Loop 5K on Sunday. A band made up of students from Jacobs High School also will be there to perform “Run, Jager, Run,” a song written by STAR 105.5’s Stew Cohen.