NEW ORLEANS -- The North Central (Ill.) men’s and Wartburg women’s teams, both defending champions, emerged as the top teams in the Division III U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) preseason computer projections, based largely on the top returning student-athletes from teams around the country and performances from the early portion of this season.

Wartburg, which overwhelmingly won the 2012 championship with a division-record 99 team points after being projected as the preseason No. 1, finds itself atop the rankings for the ninth consecutive edition after it held the spot wire-to-wire in 2012.

Wartburg and second-ranked UW-Oshkosh are set to once again battle for a DIII crown, as the two schools have combined to claim seven of the last nine indoor championships, with Wartburg winning last year and also back-to-back in 2009 and 2010; while Oshkosh three-peated from 2004-06 and claimed another in 2011.

Less than a third (30) of Wartbug’s 99 points from a year ago will return, including national runners-up junior Camesha Goods (hurdles) and sophomore Alana Enabnit (5,000 meters). The Knights will be without three national champions from 2012.

MEN'S PRESEASON POLL
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UW-Oshkosh returns 29 of its 48 points from the 2012 championships, including defending 800 meters and mile champion senior Christy Cazzola.

On the men’s side, three teams earned a score of 130 or higher in the preseason projections: North Central with 138.12, UW-La Crosse with 134.32 and UW-Oshkosh with 133.39. Three other teams scored higher than 100, setting the stage for a competitive 2013 indoor season.

The men’s preseason ranking is similar to the teams’ finishes at the 2012 championships, where North Central claimed the title with 48 team points, UW-Oshkosh finished third with 32 points, and UW-La Crosse scored 27 for a tie for fifth.

North Central, which was also the preseason favorite last season, returns three of its five individual scorers from 2012, including the top-ranked returning pole vaulter senior Josh Winder, the 2012 champ. They lost 400 champ Dan Benton, though the other three legs of the school’s national championship 4×400 relay team remain intact.

UW-La Crosse returns all but one scoring student-athlete from the 2012 championship, including senior jumper Isaac Vasquez, who is the top-ranked returner in the long jump and is ranked second in the triple jump among returners. Senior Aric Hoeshcen is the top-ranked returning runner in the 400.

UW-Oshkosh will be back with all but one of its scoring student-athletes from 2012, including senior thrower Pete Delzer, the No. 1 returning weight-throw athlete in the nation and is third in the shot put among all returners.