ELMHURST, Ill. -- North Central reaffirmed its status as the top NCAA Division III program in the nation in its 2012 season opener, cruising to a victory in the Elmhurst College Early Bird Invitational at Eldridge Park.

The No. 1-ranked Cardinals totaled 28 points to finish well clear of runner-up DePaul University's score of 56. The University of Chicago placed third with 62, followed by the host Bluejays with 162 in an 18-team field.

John Crain led the Cardinals' charge by claiming first place out of 168 competitors, completing the 6,000-meter (3.7-mile) course in a record time of 18 minutes, 53.1 seconds. The previous record of 18:56 was set by North Central's Michael Spain '11 in 2010.

The Cardinals' Dan Kerley placed second in 18:56.7. Travis Morrison finished fifth in 19:07.2 and Mitch Gilbert also cracked the top 10 by placing ninth in 19:14.7.David Weber completed North Central's scoring by placing 11th in 19:15.5, withRyan Root (12th, 19:22.8) and Roger Klein (13th (19:25.1) following close behind.

The Cardinals also had a freshman team competing in the event, which placed sixth with 185 points. Troy Kelleher paced the North Central newcomers, placing 20th in 19:36.8