Australian underdog Patrick Tiernan (Qld) has upset the three-time Cross Country Champion Edward Cheserek (USA) to be crowned champion at the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana.
The championships are the annual pinnacle of distance racing in the U.S college system and sees numerous Olympians and elite athletes involved in the 10km race each year.
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. It was close through the first 5,000 meters and eventually a leading pack of Tiernan, Cheserek and Justyn Knight (CAN) 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. As the trio entered the final straight, Tiernan surged again in the final stretch to take the championship in a time of 29:27.3.
"We started to pick it up a little bit about 6km and I think it was about 8km into the race that I made a bit of a surge and just decided to go with it," said Tiernan, who majors in Mathematics at Villanova University.
"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."
With the victory, Tiernan becomes the first Australian since 1960 (Al Lawrence) to win the title.
Cheserek, a Kenyan-born American citizen was attempting to become the first athlete to win four consecutive NCAA XC titles but finished third behind Tiernan and Knight.
Earlier this year Tiernan competed at his first Olympic Games this year in Rio for Australia, finishing 13th in his heat (20th overall) in the men’s 5000m.
"It is unbelievable and a very surreal feeling," said Tiernan.
"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."
"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.
“This is a very special day, and probably will be one of the more special days I have here as a coach at Villanova," O’Sullivan said.
Tiernan is expected to take part in the Zatopek:10 Australian 10,000m Championships in Melbourne on the 8th of December 2016.
Villanova University Wildcats