LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 03: Evan Jager of the United States and Tarik Langat Akdag of Turkey out in front during the Men's 3000m Steeplechase Heats on Day 7 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 3, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Illinois got top billing on the first day of track-and-field events in London.
Algonquin's Evan Jager easily finished second in Friday's opening round of the 3,000-meter steeplechase race, sending him to Sunday's finals. Though Jager planned to hang back and aim for the Top 4, he led for the last two laps.
The Jacobs High School graduate began competing in steeplechase only in April after switching from cross-country running, but fans back home have no doubt about his speed in all things running.
“I tried not to be [intimidated]," said Ryan Weber, a former Cary-Grove High School runner who often raced against Jager, "but it’s difficult not to when you lose sight of him after a half-mile into the race."
Jager, known for his billowing blond hair and intense speeds, was originally a 5K runner, an event that gained him success after he traded his career at University of Wisconsin-Madison for a professional career with Nike in Portland, Ore.
A 2010 injury quickly hindered Jager’s progress, forcing him to turn a year of racing into a year of rehabilitation. The break, however, turned out to be just what he needed.
The 20-year-old athlete finished first in the race at track-and-field Olympic trials, earning him a spot in the 2012 Olympics.
Jager competes Sunday in the medal round of the steeplechase event.