The Villanova freshman from Down Under talks about the Wildcats’ unexpectedly strong season.
The Villanova Wildcats started the 2013 cross country season ranked No. 27 and this week jumped to No. 14 after winning both the Big East Conference and Mid-Atlantic regional. Keys to the Wildcats’ success have been tight pack running and the precocious performances of freshman Patrick Tiernan, who won individual titles at both championship meets.
Tiernan, 19, arrived at Villanova last January from Toowoomba, Australia and sat out the indoor and outdoor track seasons. His collegiate career began quietly, as he was third man on the team with a ninth-place overall finish at the Big Five Invitational in Philadelphia. He has been the low stick in all five subsequent races, but Villanova Coach Marcus O’Sullivan kept his team out of Pre-Nationals and the Wisconsin Invitational, so Tiernan’s abilities went unnoticed. A trip to Fayetteville, Ark., in mid-October gave a hint of things to come, as Tiernan ran to a fourth-place finish at the Chile Pepper Festival 8K behind All-Americans Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech and Arkansas teammates Kemoy Campbell and Stanley Kebenei. The Wildcats also impressed that day, scoring a close 31-44 second-place finish behind the Razorbacks. But few would have predicted Villanova’s 34-point low score at the Mid-Atlantic regional, which they accomplished by putting five among the first 12 finishers. Now, with nationals at hand and the team peaking perfectly, Tiernan and his teammates have high ambitions for Terre Haute.
Running Times: Congratulations to you on the Mid-Atlantic region victory, and to your team on taking the title. I’m wondering whether you’ve seen the great photo of you racing alongside several teammates, with a big grin on your face. Any recollection of what was going on?
Patrick Tiernan: I think it was right at the mile marker, and I just remember we were running through a huge crowd of people, five or six hundred just lining the track there, and I just couldn’t believe it. I’d never been in a race with that many spectators or people who were really into cross country like that. So I was overwhelmed by the situation, I guess. There wasn’t anything said or anything like that, I just couldn’t wipe the grin off my face at the time. It was a great moment for me and I’ll always remember it. It was special.
RT: If you think back to August at the beginning of preparations for the season, what was the outlook on how things would shape up for the team?
|Tiernan leading at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional|
PT: Nationals was always a goal, but I think for us as a team, winning Big East was probably our biggest goal of the year. We wanted to win that because I know the boys said they had a pretty rough race there last year, finishing fifth or something, so I think we were all pretty determined to do well there. And we figured if we could do well there we’d just try to carry our form on and try to do well at nationals. And now we definitely see ourselves as a big threat to other teams, potentially a top 10 team if we all perform at our full potential. We’ll just see how we go, we’ll rock up on the day and give it one hundred percent and that’s all anyone can ask for.
RT: Villanova has surprised a lot of people this month, in part because you didn’t run some of the biggest meets during the regular season—you weren’t at Pre-Nationals or Wisconsin, for example. But were you guys and Coach O’Sullivan confident all along that you had the capability to do well in the late season, and what point did you feel it could all come together like this?
PT: It was Marcus’s plan for the season to keep pretty low-key until the post-season races. And we had a pretty good hit out there at Arkansas, which was our first big race of the year. But I think we worked into it well. Each race we were prepared for by the training we were doing and our training was getting gradually quicker as the season was going along. And I think now we’ve tapped into some systems that they didn’t get into last year as far as aerobic and anaerobic capacity goes. That was a big factor for us and it’s worked out really well and hopefully it pays off in the last race.
RT: You’ve won three races and finished among the top few in three others. Have the results surprised you or did you come in after a really good summer and know you were going to be one of the top guys?
PT: I guess you’re always going to be surprised when you get a win in any sort of race, but I knew I was fit, I knew I had a good base built up during the summer. And I guess just doing a few things differently with a more serious set-up over here rather than back home was a big thing for me this semester. I’ve raced as I usually do, no surprises as far as my tactics have gone whatsoever. But I think definitely the change-up in training for me was a big thing and it’s been probably my best season of running to date. Yeah, it’s definitely been a surprise for me but I think I can get out one more good race for the season.
RT: Was racing the full 10K distance at regionals a lot more challenging than the previous 4-mile and 8K races?
PT: Yeah, it was. I’d done a couple of 10Ks back home but not cross country, they were sort of flat races. So it was a big step up for me but it’s what we’ve been training for the whole season, so we were ready for it.
RT: You’ve got such a deep team, all seven racing so closely together in races. Obviously at nationals it’s going to be a big, talented field and high intensity so do you expect to still work together as a team?
PT: Yeah, I feel we can definitely work off each other in the race. I know that’s what a lot of other teams do when it comes to big races like this. You’ve got to know where you’re at and the only way to do that is to work off the teammates you’ve been training with all year. So I think that will definitely come into play on the day, but honestly I’m not 100 percent sure what the plan is for the race.
RT: Individually what are you looking to do in Terre Haute?
PT: Ideally I’d like to get in the top 25, but we’ll see how the race goes. If I can get in the top 25 anything better is just a bonus.
RT: And as a team you’re saying top ten is the goal, right?
PT: As a team top ten, definitely. That’s definitely our potential and now it’s just a matter of us applying it on the day.