Patrick Tiernan started athletics at the age of nine in Toowoomba when his primary school teacher, who was the cross -country coach, saw him running one morning and asked if he wanted to join his squad.
He was emerging by his late teenage years, winning national junior titles and recording impressive times of 3:50 (1500m) and 14:40 (5000m). In 2013, he headed off to study and run for the great US distance college team of Villanova. In his first year, he placed ninth in the NCAA cross country but didn’t compete on the track. By 2014 he had slashed his career bests across the board: 1500m – four seconds to 3:46, 3000m - 14 seconds to 7:57, 5000m - 69 seconds to 13:31. He placed seventh and sixth respectively in the NCAA indoor and outdoor 5000m.
Patrick’s 2016 saw significant progression. Bronze in the 5000m at the NCAAs, then a PB and Olympic qualifier of 13:20.88 in Turku. In Rio, he didn’t progress past the 5000m heats but closed the year with an outstanding Zatopek win in the time of 27:59.74.
His international 2017 season was stunning. It started in March with 13th at the World Cross Country Championships to become the fifth highest placed Australian ever in that race. Then over 63 days from late May to early July, he
set five long distance personal bests. At 3000m he ran three PBs, taking 10 seconds off his best, and his 7:37.76 promotes him to number three best in Australian history. At 5000m a seven-second PB makes him the fourth fastest in Australian history. At 10,000m, in just his second attempt at the event, a 30-second improvement moved him to number three all-time. At just 22, he had already become one of the greatest all-round distance runners in Australian history. “It was a nice little purple patch I went through there, but to be honest, I wasn’t even thinking about times going into those races. Each race, I just went in with the mentality that I was going to put myself in a position to compete. Fortunately for me, in doing so, I would have to run a PB.”
Selected for the London 2017 World Championships, he first placed 22nd in the 10,000m in a time of 29:23.72, but rebounded eight days later to finish 11th in the 5000m, the second highest ever placing by an Australian in this event.
In December he departed his US training base to prepare for the Zatopek 10,000m national title and the Australian 5000m championships in February. At Zatopek he placed second (28:38.94), earning automatic selection for the Commonwealth Games. In the national 5000m on the Gold Coast he led most of the race in very humid conditions, eventually placing fourth in 13:26.38.
He graduated from Villanova with a Science (mathematics and economics) degree, but continues to live and train at Villanova, with his coach Marcus O’Sullivan, the great Irish miler who won three world indoor championships and ran 101 sub-four-minute miles.