THE PROCEEDINGS took on a whole new dynamic when it became clear that the balky stress fracture that had plagued Evan Jager’s left foot for nearly a year would compel the 7-time defending champion to bypass the meet. With the Olympic silver medalist on the sidelines, earlier-crafted race plans would be revamped and the expectations of the remaining challengers would be recalibrated.
At the gun Hillary Bor dashed to the front and was followed closely by Andy Bayer and Stanley Kebenei as the honest pace quickly strung out the field. Seeking a quicker tempo after 2 laps, Bayer took over the lead as Mason Ferlic moved up to 4th. On the next lap the quartet created separation with the field. Kebenei slid into the lead on the following circuit as a laboring Ferlic was falling back. After the trio hit the finish line with 2 laps remaining in 6:09.86 Bor took back the lead. The threesome was clear with Ferlic 25m back and fading.
Bor hit the bell just inches ahead of Kebenei and Bayer. A 60.61 final lap gave Bor the victory in 8:18.05 followed closely by Kebenei in 2nd (8:19.12), while a jubilant Bayer, hands cast skyward at the line, finished 3rd in 8:23.23.
Said Bor, “The race went exactly as I thought it would be.” The former Iowa Stater envisioned that he, Kebenei and Bayer would be the ones to break away, explaining, “We knew that it would be easy for us to make the team if we worked together.” Kebenei also anticipated the race would unfold as it did, except he wanted the win: “I knew I was going to make the team but I came here to win. I didn’t do it, but it’s OK. There’s always next time. For now I’m going to go and focus for the World Championships, which I have been looking forward for.” The 5th-place finisher in the ’17 WC, who labels himself as “more of a road guy than a track guy,” has specific plans for his Doha buildup. “I am going to focus on the World Championships. I am trying to get to Paris to see if I can get the Diamond League points that will take me to the finals.”
Bayer was elated, relishing his 3rd and the place he finally earned on a U.S. world team. After sustaining 4 crushing 4th-place finishes in 4 national championship gatherings (one of them in the 2012 Olympic Trials 1500) with global team spots on the line, the persistent ’12 NCAA 1500 champ—a title he captured on Drake’s blue oval—finally broke the curse. On the final lap with a team berth within his grasp, the Indiana alum concentrated on staying focused: “My main thought was just to secure this team, be careful over the hurdles, and just make sure to get over everything. 3rd is as good as 1st today and I just have to get myself on the team.” After 4 near misses, Bayer described the impact of finally gaining a global team berth. “It means a lot to me. To finish in 3rd place and to make the team, it’s great. There’s a sigh of relief. I should have been top 3 and I did it. It just feels great.”
USATF MEN’S STEEPLE RESULTS
(July 27; interior water jump)
1. Hillary Bor (NikUSAr) 8:18.05 (60.61);
2. Stanley Kebenei (Nik) 8:19.12 (61.66);
3. Andy Bayer (Nik) 8:23.23 (65.51);
1. Hillary Bor (NikUSAr) 8:18.05;
2. Stanley Kebenei (Nik) 8:19.12;
3. Andy Bayer (Nik) 8:23.23;
4. Benard Keter (NikUSAr) 8:37.62;
5. Mason Ferlic (Nik) 8:37.99;
6. Obsa Ali (Mn) 8:42.00;
7. Frankline Tonui (NikUSAr) 8:43.14;
8. Isaac Updike (HokaNJNY) 8:43.47;
9. Michael Jordan (NikUSAr) 8:50.80;
10. Jordan Mann (OceanSt) 8:56.54;
11. Daniel Michalski (In) 9:00.33;
12. Donnie Cowart (unat) 9:01.56;
13. Craig Nowak (FurmE) 9:04.69;
14. David Goodman (BouTC) 9:23.44.
I–1. Bor 8:34.03; 2. Goodman 8:35.56; 3. Mann 8:35.70; 4. Tonui 8:35.81; 5. Updike 8:35.92; 6. Nowak 8:38.38; 7. MJ Erb (SaucF) 8:39.69; 8. Brian Barraza (adi) 8:42.82; 9. Mark Parrish (unat) 8:45.49; 10. Joseph Berriatua (TinE) 8:53.67; 11. Bryce Miller (unat) 8:54.98; 12. Alex Rogers (ReebB) 9:00.47.
II–1. Kebenei 8:32.06; 2. Bayer 8:32.55; 3. Ferlic 8:33.67; 4. Ali 8:34.41; 5. Keter 8:34.79; 6. Jordan 8:34.79; 7. Michalski 8:36.68; 8. Cowart 8:38.50; 9. Donn Cabral (HokaNJNY) 8:42.77; 10. Kyle Medina (TinE) 8:53.31; 11. Stephen Jones (Ms) 8:55.55; 12. Bailey Roth (unat) 9:10.57. ◻︎