After hanging with the leaders for all but the final 300 meters, Algonquin's Evan Jager wound up fifth in Thursday's steeplechase final at the World Track & Field Championships in Moscow.
It was the best finish for a U.S. man in the event since Mark Croghan's fifth at the 1993 worlds. No U.S. runner ever has won a medal in the event.
"I really wanted a medal," Jager said. "I wanted it real bad. So I'm definitely a little disappointed."
The redoubtable Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya pulled away in the home stretch, adding a third straight world title to his two Olympic gold medals and three worlds silver medals.
Kemboi won in 8 minutes, 6.01 seconds, with teammate Conseslus Kipruto second in 8:06.37 and Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France third in 8:07.06.
Jager, who finished sixth in the race at the 2012 Olympics and was making his world meet debut in the steeple, clocked 8:08.67.
When Kemboi and Kipruto made their big moves in the final lap, Jager could not match their pace.
"I was in fifth or sixth place the entire race, right on the rail, which was perfect," Jager said. "Going into the last lap, I was fifth (and) hoping someone would - as bad as it sounds - trip, fall over a barrier or just die so I could pass them (and) finish top three.
"I'm disappointed but I'm also a little bit happy improving on last year. The ultimate goal was to improve on sixth place. I was only two seconds off the winner this time as opposed to like five (5.31) last year."
This only Jager's second season as a steeplechaser. The 24-year-old, who trains in Oregon, had made the 2009 world meet in the flat 5,000 meters but did not qualify for the final.
He developed startingly fast in the steeplechase and ran fast as well - winning the Olympic trials and setting a U.S. record of 8:06.81 last year at the Diamond League meet in Monaco. To come about two seconds of that time in a championship race (without pace-setters) was satisfying, especially since the Olympic steeplechase final was run at a much slower pace.
"I'm definitely happy with how far I have come and excited for the future," he said.
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