Written By David Berman
Villanova Media Relations
TERRE HAUTE, Ind.-- It seems like senior cross country runner Patrick Tiernan (Toowoomba, Australia) has been making history and setting new records from his very first days in a Villanova singlet, and indeed he has. The final race of his incredible collegiate career was on Saturday afternoon, and Tiernan went out a national champion as he added one more breathtaking chapter to his Wildcats legacy. He had the race in hand and seemingly glided down the final straightaway to become the second men's runner in program history to win the individual cross country crown.
"It is unbelievable and a very surreal feeling," Tiernan said after the race. "I have been here for four years and this is something that you always dream about happening. To have it happen in my last race as a college athlete is an unbelievable feeling, and a very good representation of all the hard work myself, [head coach] Marcus O'Sullivan and the whole team has put in. To pull it off today was fantastic."
Tiernan and redshirt freshman Andrew Marston (Wayne, Pa.) were each individual qualifiers for the national championship. Marston, who had an excellent collegiate debut this fall after redshirting his true freshman seasons last year, registered a time of 31:12.9 and placed 146th overall in Saturday's race. He was the first or second finisher for the Wildcats in all seven of his races this season.
Tiernan won the race by a margin of 5.3 seconds and finished with a winning time of 29:22.0 on the 10,000 meter LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. He became the first Villanova men's runner to be a four-time cross country All-American, and also joined Vic Zwolak (1963) as the only Wildcats to be cross country national champions. Tiernan recently became the first athlete in BIG EAST history to win four straight individual conference crowns when he defended his title at the conference championships last month.
"The word that Patrick used, and I thought it was interesting, is surreal because I kind of feel the same way," Villanova head coach Marcus O'Sullivan said. "It occurred to me that we have gone so long without a win here that wouldn't it be awesome to have an individual win here. You have the team thing, but you have the individual aspect of this which is terrific. To come here knowing that you are close prior to the race and then to see it all unfold is just an incredible experience for me as a coach. This is a very special day, and probably will be one of the more special days I have here as a coach at Villanova."
The national championship race was billed as a duel between Tiernan and Edward Cheserek of Oregon. The two had memorably battled each other last year in a race that came down to the wire. This time around, they were two of several contenders who had a legitimate chance to walk away with the title. It was close through the first 5,000 meters and eventually a leading pack of Tiernan, Cheserek and Justyn Knight of Syracuse surged ahead of the pack. Tiernan's impeccable sense of the right time to make a move kicked in with 2,000 meters to go.
"We started to pick it up a little bit about 6K and I think it was about 8K into the race that I made a bit of a surge and just decided to go with it," Tiernan said. "I picked it up gradually until I hit the home straight and then was just strong to the finish. It wasn't until about 50 meters to go that I took a glance back and saw there was nobody there. I had a huge smile come across my face. It was a great feeling."
When the course reaches its final turn prior to the long, closing straightaway, there is about 600 meters to go before the finish line. Tiernan and Knight broke away from Cheserek approaching the straightaway. Knight was the runner-up with a time of 29:27.3 and Cheserek came in third in 29:48.0. The top eight runners in the field of 251 posted times below 30 minutes. Tiernan's winning time of 29:22.0 is the fourth-fastest cross country 10K by any Villanova runner.
"It is an honor to be a part of Villanova's track and cross country history," Tiernan said. "This is such a prestigious program and to have my name up there now as one of only two national champions on the cross country side of things is phenomenal, and something I'll always be grateful for."
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
On his Villanova career: "It is unbelievable. I look back on it and I think about the day that I decided to come over to the states and to come to Villanova. My first semester I wasn't quite sure whether it was the right decision for me at the time. You get one season on the team and you realize what a great environment it is and how great the coaching staff is. The community itself outside the athletes is amazing, and something you just cannot get anywhere else. I think that really helped me over the last few years and it is something I'm going to miss."
On the team aspect of cross country season: "It is something you don't get to experience in our sport a whole lot. To be able to make running a team sport is fantastic. I didn't think about it like that when I was back home, but you feel like you are on a football or a basketball team with everyone competing for each other. Even today when it was just Andrew and I, it felt like I was out there competing for all 20 guys on our team and all the guys I've run with previously in the last four years. You feel like you're out there running for them as well as for yourself, and it really helps."
Marcus O'Sullivan, VILLANOVA HEAD COACH
On Tiernan's work ethic: "The side of Pat a lot of people don't see is that he has a tremendous commitment to learning. That's the best way I can describe it. Some athletes are very receptive to learning. You tell them what to do, they kind of listen while you're doing it and then they just go ahead and they apply it. Pat is definitely one of those athletes. The other thing is that he's a very confident athlete, not in an arrogant way but in a very quiet way. He knows where his limits are and he knows what he's capable of doing. I'm pretty certain he knew he was very well capable of winning this race today. So when you put that together, he's a bright individual and a Math major, when you put those things together you're working with a very special athlete."
On Tiernan's success: "When you have those ingredients of commitment, confidence, the ability to learn, and the talent - a lot of kids come to college and they all have talent; there are so many kids with talent - what you need are the other attributes. The attributes I saw in Patrick over the years were that commitment level, determination level, the ability to be receptive to new ideas and new teachings, and his sense of focus. Today is a real culmination of the many talents you need along with the physical talents."