Tiernan takes second at cross-country national finals



Katie Ho Sang

Last Saturday, the Wildcats competed in Louisville, Ky at the NCAA cross country championships. Junior Patrick Tiernan led the trio of Villanova runners, that included Robert Denault and Jordy Williamsz, behind Oregon’s Edward Cheserek, that received individual bids to nationals. Tiernan ran a gutsy race to place second, the best individual finish Villanova has seen since 1970. The Lady Wildcats received an at large team selection, and their efforts earned them a 30th place finish.

 Over the 10-kilometer course, Tiernan held the first place position until just over a mile left to run. He immediately assumed the leading position at the start of the race and pushed the leading pack of runners with an honest pace. By the halfway point, Tiernan and Cheserek were well separated from the rest of the group. They continued to battle in a two-man race. It was not the first time a Wildcat had a show down with the Duck. Last spring, Williamsz out kicked Cheserek in the Penn Relays to help capture the 4x1600m title. 

Tiernan and Cheserek passed through the 8000-meter mark at a time of 22:51 and were 23 seconds ahead of the rest of the field with 2000 meters to go. Tiernan’s bold pace kept his first place position until the mile, where Cheserek began his final push to the finish line. 

“Physically I was feeling great up until about the seventh kilometer when I saw that he was still on my shoulder,” Tiernan said. “My legs were starting to get a little heavy, my breathing was definitely louder, and it was just starting to hurt a little more than I would have liked. 

“When he broke me with about 1500m left to run, I was absolutely spent, and was just focusing on getting to the finish line at that point.”

Tiernan still mustered a strong finish and crossed the line with a time of 29:11, 25 seconds behind Cheserek, who continued to open up as he approached the finish line. Tiernan’s time set a new 10,000-meter school record. The previous time of 29:15 stood for 36 years. 

Graduate student Denault finished 77th with a time of 30:46, while Williamsz crossed the line in 32:17 for a 214th place finish. This race concluded Denault and Williamsz’s cross country eligibility, and both made NCAA appearances each year during their time at Villanova. The Villanova trio made strong appearances to lead the team throughout the season and concluded the season on a high note. 

The three set themselves up well for the upcoming track season, and future Olympic endeavors. After the indoor track season, Tiernan aims to compete in the Olympic trials in hopes of finishing in the top three in the 5000m to represent Australia in Rio. 

“My motivation this season was getting to the championship race and being able to show everyone what I could do this season,” Tiernan said. “In moving forward, my motivation for the upcoming track season will be to qualify for the Australian Olympic team, so each session and race this spring will be done with that goal in the back of my mind.”

He proved that he is part of an elite class of runners as he challenged Cheserek, who was the most highly recruited runner in the United States. Last weekend, he made history for being the first person to win the national title for three consecutive years. Like Tiernan, he has one more year of eligibility remaining.

The entire Lady Wildcat squad competed in Kentucky for the national title. Sophomore Siofra Cleirigh Buttner led the squad with a 113th place finish and a 20:56 time over the 6000m course. Junior Angel Piccirillo ran with the leaders until the group broke off and then paced the Wildcats. Her efforts landed her a 140th place finish and 21:07 time. 

Other scoring runners include freshman Bella Burda, sophomore Katie Fisher and freshman Ann Campbell, who finished 175th, 198th and 222nd, respectively. Junior Caitlin Bungo and freshman Nicole Hutchinson completed the lineup with strong individual finishes. The entire competing team has at least one more year of eligibility left.

The young squad received the 31st bid spot and surpassed their seed with a 30th place finish. This NCAA showing will provide the underclassmen a highly competitive experience for the years to come. The Wildcats finished the season on a high note, and the future is bright for Villanova track and the individuals who have goals beyond the collegiate level.