Track’s Tiernan and Williamsz eye Olympic bid



Frank Scicchitano

Villanova athletes have competed in the Olympics since 1908. Earlier in April, senior distance runners Pat Tiernan and Jordy Williamsz took the first step toward adding their names to that prestigious list.

The Olympics have always been on the minds of these world-class runners, but it was this past December that Tiernan and Williamsz officially committed to competing in the 2016 Australian Athletics Championships in Sydney. 

This was the first time in four years Tiernan and Williamsz competed in their home country. Although they were not scheduled to race until April 1, the pair arrived in Australia on March 20. From there, they split up and returned home—Williamsz to Melbourne and Tiernan to Toowoomba—to recover from the 22-hour flight and the five-month training period.

Both runners were appreciative of the opportunity to visit their respective hometowns. Tiernan had made the trip eight months earlier, but Williamsz had not been home in two years.

Tiernan recalled the experience of competing in front of his family as well as the importance of their support in the days leading up to the event.

 “I think some of the better races that I’ve had [in the United States] are the couple that I’ve had family at, “ he explained. “Either Mom or Dad coming to watch…having their support and just being able to [have] home-cooked meals everyday is great. The little things you take for granted really help in that preparation.”

They spent a little more than a week at their respective homes before traveling to Sydney for the event. 

In NCAA races in the United States, Tiernan and Williamsz have combined for 11 All-American honors in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. Their race in Sydney was a chance to measure themselves against seasoned professionals who were chasing the same Olympic dream. 

Amongst the talented field in the 5,000-meter race, Tiernan found himself up against a familiar face. Former Villanova runner Sam McEntee, a 2015 graduate and native of Perth, Australia, also competed in the event.

Tiernan finished fourth in the event with a time of 13:41, four seconds behind McEntee, who won the event with a time of 13:37.

There were no former Wildcats opposing Williamsz in the 1,500 meters. But the race was extremely competitive as the top 12 runners finished within five seconds of the championship time. Williamsz ran the race in 3:43, which was good for tenth place.

Even though neither of the current Wildcats came out of their respective races with a victory, Villanova was still well represented in Sydney. 

McEntee’s victory puts him in the best position of the three runners to earn a spot on Australia’s Olympic team. 

Because he won the race, his focus can now shift to running the Olympic standard time of 13:25 in the 5,000 meters. If he can achieve this before mid-July, McEntee will find himself competing in Rio de Janeiro this coming August.

The path is a little more difficult for Tiernan and Williamsz. Both runners can put themselves in position to make the Australian team by running the Olympic standard times in their respective events. 

Tiernan will need to run the same 5,000 meter standard as McEntee, while Williamsz’s goal will be a time of 3:36 in the 1,500 meters.

If Tiernan and Williamsz run the standard times before mid-July, they will be eligible to be selected by a committee for a spot on the team.  

Although his personal record in the 5,000 meters is about six seconds slower than the current Olympic standard, Tiernan is confident that he can run the time.

“I’m not too worried about the time, I think I can get that,” he said. “It’s just a matter of whether the selectors are willing to take a gamble on me or not.”

Williamsz’s personal record in the 1,500 meters matches the Olympic standard of 3:36, and he is more than capable of repeating that performance and earning consideration for a spot on the Australian National Team.

Both athletes are focused on the final NCAA outdoor season of their careers, but the Olympic standards will always be on their minds. 

A successful spring on the outdoor track will go a long way toward helping them realize the dream of representing their home country at the Olympics.