June 13, 2014
POST RACE COVERAGE
EUGENE, Ore.--Freshman distance runner Patrick Tiernan (Toowoomba, Australia) ended his sensational freshman campaign for Villanova with a sixth place finish in the 5000 meters at historic Hayward Field in the NCAA Championships on Friday evening. Tiernan registered the 12th fastest time in the history of the national meet and became only the fourth Wildcats runner to finish in the top eight of the 500 meters at the outdoor championships. His finishing time of 13:31.25 was a personal best by more than six seconds and makes him the second fastest athlete in school history in the 5000 meters.
"I couldn't ask for anything more today," Tiernan said. "I am just really happy to be here and do my best out there for Villanova. I ended up being sixth and that was a great result for me. I took stepping stones this year to get more competitive next year and I seem to be in great shape."
Tiernan had previously established a personal best time of 13:37.73 during the indoor track & field season, a mark which also set a new indoor school record. He eclipsed that time by just over 6.5 seconds in Friday night's national championship race and surpassed even his own expectations.
"I am really happy with how the season went," Tiernan said. "I am surprised at how it went. I didn't expect to be running 13:30 at the end of the season. The next step for me is to try and here again next year and get further up on the podium."
The field of runners in the 5000 meters was stacked with some of the best distance runners in collegiate history. Lawi Lalang of Arizona won the race with a time of 13:18.36 and Oregon freshman Edward Cheserek was the runner-up in 13:18.71. Each of those times broke the previous NCAA meet record of 13:20.63 which Villanova legend Sydney Maree set when he won the national title 35 years ago. No other Wildcats runner is believed to have run a time between Maree's standard of 13:20.63 and the mark of 13:31.25 that Tiernan recorded.
"I have been looking at the heat sheet and seeing names like the Oregon boys, [Lawi] Lalang and [Kennedy] Kithuka," Tiernan said. "There are pros here every year so you have to come in, expect every possibility and go for it. It is amazing to be considered up with someone like Sydney Maree. From what I have heard he was a fantastic athlete in every distance from the 1500 all the way up to the 10K."
Tiernan settled into 10th place in the field of 25 runners almost from the very beginning of the race and he was never any further back than that position. The entire field had strung out nearly single-file after just two full laps but Tiernan was just 15 meters off the leading pace after 1200 meters. He produced a split of 2:41.26 for the first 1000 meters and had a split of 8:05.93 at 3000 meters.
"This was a very impressive face for Pat today," Villanova head coach Marcus O'Sullivan said. "That first mile he was in totally new territory. He has never run 2:41 before for 1000 meters and I was even thinking early on that if he comes undone it wasn't going to be pretty. I kept watching him though, and with two laps to go I could tell that he was completely fine. For him to be an All-American in this field is very impressive and to do more than just that and finish sixth is really great."
With eight laps remaining Tiernan moved into eighth place and he stayed there for three full laps. By the midpoint in the race the front four runners had pulled away from the rest of the field and Tiernan was in the chase pack that was steadily closing the gap with the front runners. He moved into sixth place with five laps to go and was still in that position with three laps remaining. At that point the top three of Lalang, Cheserek and Mohammed Ahmed of Wisconsin had separated themselves. Tiernan would eventually take over fifth place with 800 meters left and move into fourth shortly after.
"I was hurting pretty badly with three laps to go but I just tried to hang in there and give it my best shot," Tiernan said. "With 800 to go you just start grinding the gears to find a way to the front of the pack and try to push it. I gave it everything I had in the last 400. You work so hard to get here all season and there is no point in giving up with 800 to go. You have to give it your best and that's what I did. I put my body on the line and got a great result in the end."
Tiernan was the BIG EAST champion in the 5000 meters last month and also came in fourth in his heat at the NCAA East Preliminary two weeks ago to clinch an automatic qualifying spot in the national championships. He previously had come in seventh in the 5000 meters at the indoor NCAA Championship. During cross country season in the fall he was the individual champion at both the BIG EAST Championships and the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional before posting a top-10 finish at the national championships.
"Without question Pat has put himself among the best 5K runners Villanova has ever had and to be so young and doing it is very impressive," O'Sullivan said. "Pat has a great head and he trains in a very sensible way. I am very happy for him to be where he is after his first year in our program."
Aside from Maree, who won the national championship in the 5000 meters in 1979, the only other Wildcats to record a top-eight finish outdoors in the 5000 meters are John Hartnett and Bobby Curtis. Hartnett finished third in 1972 in a meet that was also held at Oregon. Curtis was the national runner-up in 2007 and then went on to win the championship in the 5000 meters in 2008.
Villanova has one race remaining at the NCAA Championships. Sophomore Jordy Williamsz (Melbourne, Australia) will run in the final of the 1500 meters on Saturday at 5:18 p.m. Eastern time (2:18 p.m. Pacific). The race will air live on ESPNU.
5000 Meters National Championships
Lawi Lalang Arizona 13:18.36 Edward Cheserek Oregon 13:18.71 Trevor Dunbar Oregon 13:26.90 Eric Jenkins Oregon 13:27.41 Mohammed Ahmed Wisconsin 13:28.45 Patrick Tiernan Villanova 13:31.25 Joe Rosa Stanford 13:31.69 Kennedy Kithuka Texas Tech 13:34.91 Shadrack Kipchirchir Oklahoma State 13:47.18 Weston Strum Loyola Marymount 13:47.19 Andrew Colley North Carolina State 13:51.06 Nick Happe Notre Dame 13:54.93 Isaac Presson North Carolina 13:55.55 Parker Stinson Oregon 13:59.18 Soufiane Bouchikhi Eastern Kentucky 14:01.48 Stanley Kebenei Arkansas 14:03.02 Matthew Schwartzer Indiana 14:08.38 Kirubel Erassa Oklahoma State 14:12.98 Leoule Degfae Virginia Tech 14:13.17 Tom Purnell Harvard 14:14.07 Matthew Gillespie Iona 14:30.20 Wesley Gallagher Northeastern 14:34.79 John Bleday Dartmouth 14:36.49 Matt Fischer Penn State 15:05.99