BILLINGS— It's safe to say most people can't tell you what the steeplechase is. Truth is, most sports fans aren't even versed in it.
But Montana State distance runner Levi Taylor can simplify it. He's not only running it for the Bobcats, he's crushing it.
Taylor placed second in the Men's 3000-meter Steeplechase at last weekend's Montana-SAC Relays in California with his best ever time of 8:38.9. Only BYU's Kenneth Rooks turned in a faster finish at the meet in 8:32.75.
"I didn't go all the way to California to run slow," he told MTN Sports with a modest smile.
He led much of the race before giving way to Rooks.
"I just kind of pushed the pace a little bit hoping to run fast and we did, so I was happy."
The thing is, steeple isn't one of track and field's more common races. If Taylor polled 100 people outside the campus dorms, how many does he think could sum it up?
"Shoot," he said grinning, "I don't think more than 25 percent would."
And that may be generous. Here's his own simplified explanation of the event.
"Well, it's a 3,000 meter race — almost two miles — and there's five barriers that you have to go over. Four of them are normal (hurdles) and one is a water barrier."
Encyclopedia Britannica defines it this way: "Steeplechase, in athletics (track-and-field), is a footrace over an obstacle course that includes such obstacles as water ditches, open ditches, and fences. The sport dates back to a cross-country race at the University of Oxford in 1850. As an Olympic track event (for men only), it was first run in the 1900 Games, and by the 1920 Games it was standardized at 3,000 metres, or about 7.5 laps on a 400-metre track."
In short, somebody long ago didn't think it was tough enough to run 3,000 meters. They thought it would be a good idea to add hurdles and water.
"I guess so," Taylor laughed. "It's definitely different than a regular flat race."
Taylor's collegiate success is no surprise. He shattered multiple cross country and track records at Laurel, won over 60 high school races and hung enough state championship gold around his neck to turn heads on the Vegas strip.
The men's 3,000 steeplechase is just one of several events he runs for MSU. His latest time is not only fastest in the Big Sky Conference but also sixth-fastest nationally among NCAA Division 1 runners.
Taylor is majoring in construction engineering technology and says he hopes to "maybe work for the highway department, or something along those lines."
Naturally, the distance runner is chasing a job that stretches across highways rather than the short confines of city streets.
With the Big Sky Conference Outdoor Championships just around the corner, we know who to watch in the men's 3,000 steeplechase — having been educated by one of the best to run it this season.