Mathematics major Patrick Tiernan is used to dealing with numbers—not only in class but on the track, where one second can be the difference between going to the Olympics or watching them on TV.
In May 2016, Patrick came within a second of posting the qualifying time for the men’s 5000 meter event. (In Olympic track & field, athletes must not only perform well at the Olympic Trials but also reach a qualifying time standard in order to compete.)
After a third place finish at NCAAs in June, Patrick was still that one second short. He headed to Europe and raced three times over 11 days to position himself for a final shot at Rio. He succeeded, achieving a time of 13:20.88 at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland.
Yet there was still a hurdle to clear. He had to defeat two-time Australian Olympian Collis Birmingham in what amounted to a run-off race in Solihull, England on July 9. He did so handily.
“I’m feeling very relieved that I've now done everything I can possibly do for selection,” Patrick said immediately after the race. “I knew I could do it; it was just a matter of putting it out there. The last couple of weeks have been a roller coaster ride, but I'm hoping there will be a nice little announcement waiting for me at the end of it.”
There was. On July 13, he was officially named to the 2016 Australian Olympic team.
Patrick is also a standout in the classroom, and tutors fellow students in math. Earlier in 2016 he was named Villanova's male winner of a BIG EAST Institutional Scholar-Athlete Award, presented by Sunkist, which comes with a $2,000 scholarship which can be applied to graduate or professional studies. He has received numerous other scholar-athlete academic accolades.
“Pat is a Mathematics major and he has achieved at the highest level at a school that is known for its academic profile,” said Villanova head track & field and cross-country coach Marcus O’Sullivan, himself a four-time Olympian. “There are always going to be great athletes and great students, but it is hard to find someone who combines both at the level that Pat does.”