North Central (Ill.) has an opportunity to pull off an impressive accomplishment this week at the NCAA Division III national meet.

The Cardinals are poised to complete a sweep of the indoor and outdoor national titles for the second consecutive season, and while doing so is easier said than done, head coach Frank Gramarosso believes his team is ready for the challenge in front of it.

The meet begins Thursday and runs through Saturday at Selby Field & George Gauthier Track in Delaware, Ohio.

“We know it’s very difficult, but we have a quality group of athletes competing at the meet and if we don’t try too hard and stick to what we have done all season, we’ll have a chance to score points and contend for the title.”

The Cardinals will have 13 athletes competing in seven events, including Michael Spain, who will be the top contender for titles in the 5,000 and 10,000-meter runs. He owns a time of 14:51.79 in the 5,000 and has a top time of 29:37.82 in the 10,000.

The mile relay team also has the nation’s best time at 3:10.66. Jonathan Caron, Randal Ellison, Jon Howard and Daniel Benton are on the relay team. Benton will also be a strong contender for the 400 championship. He owns the second-best time at 47.06.

There will be plenty of opportunities for the Cardinals to score points in the pole vault, with four competitors in the event.

Josh Winder has the second-best mark overall at 17-feet-11/2 inches. Peter Geraghty is fourth (16-111/2), John Wood is eighth (16-31/2) and Thomas Stacey is 15th (16-03/4). This will be the first trip to the outdoor national meet for Winder, a sophomore who was seventh at the indoor national meet in March.

“We were hoping to have a few more athletes qualify, but we feel like we have a good group and we want to keep the momentum rolling,” Gramarosso said. “We view track as a team sport. The individual efforts are part of the process of competing as a team.”

North Central has certainly raised its profile in the collegiate track world because of its success, and another outdoor title would prove even more beneficial to the program.

“We have good athletes, great facilities and have worked hard to put ourselves in this position,” Gramarosso said. “Before last year, we had not won a title since 2000 (tied with Lincoln, Pa.), but we have gotten back to being successful at this level and we’ll see if we have enough to win another title.”

Staying focused and at ease is the key to making that happen.

“It’s just another meet,” Gramarosso said. “We have to maintain the same emotional control we have had all year and just give it our best shot.”

Other Teams to Watch

McMurry

The War Hawks were ranked No. 1 for seven consecutive weeks during the season and Kenneth Turner will be one of several athletes looking to put McMurry at the top at the end of the season.
Turner is ranked first in the 100 with a time of 10.48 and is seeded third in the 200 (21.27).

South/Southeast Region Male Track Athlete of the Year Kevin Cunningham is the top runner in the 400 hurdles, checking in with a time of 51.49, and he is part of the top-seeded 400 relay team (40.91) that also includes Turner, John Keith and Gavan Bass. Terry Smith is seeded fourth in the 400 hurdles with a time of 52.36. McMurry was second in the poll released prior to the national meet.

UW-Oshkosh

The Titans were the national champions in 2009 and will be among the top teams at nationals this week. In fact, entering the meet, the Titans are ranked No. 1 in the country after being fourth a week ago.

Oshkosh will have three athletes competing in the shot put, including fourth-seeded Tony Baker, who checks in with a toss of 56-10. Nick Baatz and Pete Delzer will also compete in the shot put.

Baker is the second seed in the discus and comes in with a throw of 177-7. Lewis Prior is seeded third with a throw of 176-8.

UW-La Crosse

The Eagles have won six of the last 10 outdoor national championships, and with 16 athletes competing this week, they will have a chance to add a seventh crown.

Isaac Vazquez will be the favorite to win the triple jump, checking in with a mark of 50-91/2. He is the only Eagle to be the top seed in any event.

The mile-relay team is seeded second with a time of 3:12.22, and Paul Yerhot, Terrence Thigpen, Tyson Young and Aric Hoeschen are on the team.

Andy Novak has the third best mark in the shot put with a toss of 57-2 and will look to help Eagles win their first championship since going back-to-back in 2006 and 2007.

UW-Whitewater

The Warhawks are headed to Ohio with the largest contingent of competitors in school history. Whitewater will have 13 athletes competing in 10 events as they take aim at a national championship.

Whitewater has never finished higher than seventh (1987) but will have a chance to beat that place this week.

Jeremie Bogard is seeded third in the 800 (1:50.00) while Marcus Smith will take the second highest mark in the triple jump into the national meet (49-111/4). Nick Miller is competing in three events for the War Hawks. He is in the 100, 200 and is part of the mile-relay team.

Quick Hits

• Eric Woodruff of Moravian will be the top seed in the 200. He has a time of 20.97 and is also ranked second in the 100 with a time of 10.48.

• Central College in Iowa has the top two seeds in the decathlon. Ethan Miller is first with 7,134 points while Kurtis Brondyke is second with 6,898 points.

• Nebraska Wesleyan has two top-seeded athletes at nationals. John Kersenbrock is first in the long jump with a mark of 24-7 while Kevin Janata is first in the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.24.