NCAA DI XC Championships: Perspective Key For Individual Champs Schweizer, Tiernan
TERRE HAUTE, Indiana — The right perspective changes everything.
Just ask Karissa Schweizer and Patrick Tiernan.
Schweizer, a junior from Missouri, turned a purported negative into a positive and Tiernan, a senior from Villanova, concentrated on the goal rather than a legend. Added together, that served as the impetus for their individual wins at the 2016 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course on Saturday.
Depending on who you ask, the weather in “Terredise” was either perfect or less than ideal. The temperature at the start of the women’s race was 36 degrees and winds that gusted up to 28 miles per hour made it feel like 25.
Schweizer couldn’t wait to go toe to toe with Mother Nature and the NCAA’s elite.
“I knew it was bad conditions and I really favor those,” Schweizer said. “I was really excited. I was up there with the lead pack and I was thinking, ‘Man, maybe this could be my day.’”
Schweizer tucked behind Michigan’s Erin Finn, Notre Dame’s Anna Rohrer and New Mexico’s duo of Calli Thackery and Alice Wright until right before the 4K split when Rohrer and Finn surged ahead with Kansas’ Sharon Lokedi close behind. The Mizzou junior had no other option than to stay right on their heels.
“My coach (Marc Burns) told me go with whatever moves are made and I felt good so if I could hang out with them, I could kick at the end,” Schweizer said. “I kept telling myself ‘Just hang on! Just hang on!’”
Burns ran along the course urging Schweizer and six of her teammates on (The Tigers qualified as a team and placed 16th) and couldn’t help but experience déjà vu watching the race unfold.
“It was like in the 5K outdoors last year,” Burns said. “Her goal was to be All-American, but she got to the last lap and she was like, ‘Oh my God. I can get 5th. Oh my God, I can get 3rd.’ I think she was saying the same thing to herself today: ‘All right I’m going to be in the top-5. I’m going to be in the top-3. Oh my God, I can catch those two.’”
By the time the race hit the final straightaway, Schweizer sat third behind Rohrer and Finn. Then Finn kicked ahead of Rohrer and thought she had the individual title in the bag. Schweizer had other ideas as she sped past Finn on the inside and crossed the finish line in 19:41.6.
Tiernan ran his last collegiate race on Saturday and had no other focus than on the individual title. The previous three times he competed at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships he placed 9th (2013), 18th (2014) and 2nd (2015).
“I came into it with the mentality that I wasn’t getting second again,” Tiernan said. “I got second last year and as good as it was you just always want to get first. I just felt like I couldn’t leave the NCAA without a championship.”
It was in Louisville, Kentucky last November where Tiernan took out the race like a man on fire in an effort to wear out eventual winner Edward Cheserek of Oregon. All Tiernan did was tucker himself out in the final 2K as Cheserek won by 26 seconds.
Since he came back from Rio, where he competed for Australia at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Tiernan dedicated his training to closing out the last one-fifth of the 10K cross country race. He also kept the individual title in the crosshairs, not Cheserek.
“I think last year I just had too much of a central focus (on beating Cheserek) and as it turns out today, Justyn was the guy who came in behind me,” Tiernan said. “I mean, this was my last season and I approached it thinking ‘This is it. You’re going to get after it and bring home a title.’”
Tiernan found himself in familiar company once the race hit the latter stages. He, Cheserek and Syracuse’s Justyn Knight were all alone with 2K to go. The winner would have to grind it out from there and Tiernan was up to the task.
Not only did Tiernan win the national title when he finished five seconds ahead of Knight, he ended King Cheserek’s reign. Cheserek had won the three previous NCAA XC titles and if he won on Saturday, he would have done something no man in NCAA DI history had done in the storied, 77-year history of the championships. Cheserek finished 3rd, an almost poetic 26 seconds behind Tiernan.