Evan Jager — 3:32.97
In 2015, Garrett Heath and Evan Jager dueled over 1500m at the Portland Track Festival. It was an epic match. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
A debt of gratitude is owed Danny Mackey and the Brooks Beasts TC for helping make this race possible. It resulted in Evan's all-time 1500m personal best and, I believe, the fastest 1500m ever ran by an American on US soil, 3:32.97. That's flying.
You can watch the race here.
I've been to a lot of track meets and have even helped put on a few, but this sticks out as one of the most exciting I've ever witnessed.
Heath and Jager passed through the first 800m in 1:51. The rabbit dropped shortly after and then it was all Heath with Jager on his heels.
Make no mistake, Heath made the race. It was his one of his finest efforts. Heath ran brilliantly, pressing the pace in the critical moments of the race, very reminiscent of Prefontaine.
It isn't until 80m to go that Jager bolted into the lead. And the rest is history.
This was as pure a duel by American distance runners of the modern generation we may ever see. There was no big prize purse (I think the winner of the race got $1,000), no global medals at stake, or World team spots on the line. It was a simple game of let's go all out and see who is fastest. You play your hand, I'll play mine, first to the finishline wins.
Sometimes I wonder about the complexion of the race had Jager led after the pacer dropped. Would Heath have won? Would Jager have run faster? Who knows. Who cares?
It is a useless enterprise to daydream and hypothesize when what materialized was so brilliant and grand. We may never witness a head-to-head race like this transpire ever again, but I'm sure glad we did. It is what our sport needs more of: honest, authentic, remarkable racing by two great athletes who are even better people.
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm