From my view of the race, it appears that even at his best Cheserek would have had difficulty winning (although I think he would have done so because he kicks so well). He was not at his best, and Tiernan (and Knight) put in tremendous performances, with a really punishing pace for the last 5k on a windy, cold day. NCAA Division 1 cross country championships are one of the most difficult and intense races around, so congratulations to all three for a tough and hard earned performance, even if in Cheserek's case it fell short of expectations.
Bluntly, anyone in the top 10 has nothing to be ashamed of. I was a middle schooler when I saw Nick Rose dominate the field in Bloomington, Indiana (like Tiernan's performance). John Ngeno, a great runner, wasn't really close in second, Oregon went 4.5. and 6 in a great display of teaming running, and Craig Virgin, favored to win, I believe was in 12th. A not so good day for him, but he went on to have great days in the future, including a NCCA title and a world title, so he may have learned a lot from his performance that day. All of them earned my respect - it was a tough race. And I come to the same conclusion for the top 10 or so in this race. Easy to talk about, hard to do.