Heading into Saturday, Patrick Tiernan was unbeatable.
In five races this season, he claimed the the top spot at each and every stop along the way.
However, this time around, there was another unbeatable racer in the field.
Oregon’s Edward Cheserek doesn’t lose at the national level. The eight-time NCAA champion entered as the defending champion. Cheserek won back-to-back titles in his freshman and sophomore years, and now was looking to threepeat.
It was only fitting that two elite racers went toe-to-toe in a race that could only have one winner.
“I went into it thinking I’m going to have a chance to beat him,” Tiernan said.
For the first 5,000 meters of the 10K run, Tiernan pressed the pace of the front of the pack. Around the halfway mark, it became a two man race.
Tiernan and Cheserek led the crowd and slowly got separation from everyone else.
By the 8K mark, they both had created a comfortable 23-second lead over the rest.
With just over a mile left in the race, Cheserek made his move. He put on the jets and created a gap between him and Tiernan. The gap only widened in the waning minutes of the race, with Cheserek far ahead.
Tiernan finished in second place with 29:11.1, right behind Cheserek’s 28:45.8 finishing time.
This marked the third straight year in which Tiernan finished in the top 20 of the NCAA National Championships. He finished in ninth back in 2013 and 18th in 2014.
It also was the best individual finish for a Wildcat since Donal White placed second back in 1970.
Cheserek became the first to ever win three straight individual national titles.
Despite the runner-up finish, Tiernan remains in good spirits.
“I’m so happy today,” he said. “I gave it everything I had. I was spent at 7k which was way too early but you got to try some crazy things to try and win the NCAA Championships.”
Tiernan wasn’t the only Villanovan to compete on Saturday afternoon. Seniors Jordy Williamsz and Rob Denault joined Tiernan in the field. Renault finished 77th, while Williams completed the race at 214th.
It was both seniors’ final cross country race for Villanova, and have made it to nationals in each of their four years.
As for the women’s team, they had plenty of new faces at the national scene. Only two of the seven Villanovan racers have raced at the big stage before – Angel Piccirillo and Caitlin Bungo.
However, it would be sophomore Siofra Cleirigh Buttner who would lead the Wildcats with a 113rd place finish. Piccirillo completed the day at 140th.
Bella Burda and Katie Fisher both cracked the top 200, finishing at 175th and 198th overall.
Overall as a team, the women’s team placed 30th.