Olympic experience fuels Tiernan for NCAA Championships



Elliott Eyring

Courtesy of rio2016.olympics.com 

In the life of a cross country athlete, the term “long distance” is very familiar. Senior Patrick Tiernan reached an unforgettable milestone in his career when he stood on the starting line in this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Being on the start line and realizing you are a part of everything you have been watching on television for years, it is an indescribably beautiful feeling,” he said.

Tiernan’s journey to the Olympics did not come as easy as the cross country stud makes it seem. His training for the event started almost a full year before the 2016 Summer Games. During this time, he ran almost 80 miles per week, along with cross training that ranged from yoga to weightlifting. Throughout his training, Tiernan always had qualifying for Rio on his mind and knew what it would take. 

Australian qualifying credentials differ from America’s. Tiernan knew he could attend the National Trials in April and that the top three times in his best race, the 5,000 meters, would qualify for the Olympics. At the Olympic Trials, Patrick came within one second of securing his spot in the Olympics. 

Despite the setback, Tiernan knew he could still qualify by achieving a great time in another major race. His sheer will led him to compete in three international races in a span of just eleven days. He reached his benchmark with a time of 13:20:88 at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland. 

Part of Tiernan’s favorite running experiences have been the places they have led him throughout the world—England, Finland, Brazil and Australia—but no place was quite as satisfying as reaching the Olympic Games in Brazil. His admiration for the Olympic stage is rooted in his respect for the weight that the Games carries.

“When you see people on the podium and have their national anthem being played as millions of viewers tune in worldwide, you recognize the importance of the colors that you are wearing,” he said.

In Rio, Tiernan got to experience his “first real taste of international racing” accompanied by people from countries all over the world. The Olympic Village was filled with hotels inhabited by athletes of a variety of countries with huge dining halls and athletic facilities scattered around. The town was located about 45 minutes from Rio, and although athletes were skeptical of the living conditions before the Olympic Games, leading some prominent stars to drop out, Tiernan said the quality of life for the athletes was great. Although he did mention he wouldn’t particularly vacation in Rio, he did express his great appreciation for being under the lights in the city.

“As a kid I always wanted to be at the top level of my sport, and when in Rio, I realized I had reached the highest level of competition,” he said.

Under the spotlight with the best of the best, Tiernan’s finish was “not exactly satisfying.” He finished 13th in his heat with a time of 13:28.48 and failed to make the final race by three spots. His near miss at a chance to run in the final left him with a sour taste for improvement, but he was still appreciative to have had the chance to run. Tiernan says he is definitely planning on qualifying again and that he has a lot to learn from this first experience—namely, a modified mental approach and a stricter dietary regimen. 

He accomplished his goal of getting to the Olympics, but Tiernan isn’t complacent with one trip, although the Villanova community certainly praises him for his feats this summer. 

“It was great coming back to Villanova—the community was very supportive and encouraging. It was awesome to realize how many people were rooting for me,” he said. 

This encouragement provides fuel for Tiernan’s next run at a college meet or an Olympic final.

Tiernan will draw upon his high-level experiences and Villanova support as he competes on the biggest college stages. In the next month, he’ll hope to run at the Big East Championships, NCAA Regionals and NCAA Championships.

So, if you see Tiernan’s long and tall figure with his cross country backpack in the hallways, make sure to share with him your words of encouragement, mate.