ELMHURST, Ill. -- North Central got the 2011 season off on the right foot on Friday, shrugging off humid conditions to capture the 16-team Elmhurst Early Bird Invitational at Eldridge Park.

North Central, ranked No. 1 in the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association NCAA Division III Coaches' Poll, amassed 31 points in the team tally while Chicago was a distant runner-up, as the Maroons finished with a score of 62. Saint Francis was third with 76 points while Division II Lewis finished fourth with an 84. Host Elmhurst was sixth with a score of 178.

Tim Hird claimed top individual honors, traversing the 6,000-meter course in 19 minutes, 17.9 seconds, winning by a seven second margin. Dan Kerley was the second Cardinal to cross the tape, finishing in fourth in 19:30.2 while Kevin Sparks and John Crain finished back-to-back in seventh and eighth places, clocking times of 19:50.3 and 19:51.1, respectively.

Ryan Root was the Cardinals No. 5 man, finishing 11th in 19:53.7 while Matt Perez (12th, 19:54.6) and Jordan Kremer (13th, 19:55.3) rounded out the top varsity seven.