NEW ORLEANS -- Just as during the indoor season, the outdoor preseason rankings project a dogfight for the top spot between No. 1 North Central (Ill.) with 176.25 team points and a trio of teams from Wisconsin: No. 2 UW-Oshkosh (170.15 team points), No. 3 UW-Whitewater (150.62) and indoor champ No. 4 UW-La Crosse (147.68). Out of the equation is defending champ McMurry, which claimed the 2012 title just before making its current transition from Division III to Division II.

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The Cardinals of North Central have claimed two of the past three outdoor team titles dating back to consecutive titles in 2010 and 2011, but finished fifth in 2012. Back-to-back outdoor pole vault champ senior Peter Geraghty is the top-ranked pole vaulter among 2012 returners and early 2013 performers, leading a group of four vaulters in the top seven with fellow seniors Josh Winder, Thomas Stacey and Frank Wleklinski; and eight total top-10 performers.

UW-Oshkosh finished runner-up during the indoor campaign, and finds itself back at No. 2 to open the outdoor season. The Titans, who finished fourth at outdoor NCAAs a year ago, return 11 performers in the top 10 of their respective events, including defending hammer throw champ senior Pete Delzer and top-ranked shot putter senior Nick Baatz, also ranked No. 2 in the discus.

At No. 3, UW-Whitewater is ranked its highest in program history behind eight top-10 ranked performers.

This season’s indoor champion UW-La Crosse finished runner-up in each of the past two seasons, and begins the outdoor campaign No. 4. Senior Aric Hoeschen is the top-ranked runner at 400 meters and senior Isaac Vazquez is the defending outdoor long jump champ.

Whitworth (111.23) completes the top five behind the strength of its throwers corps led by defending discus champ Carter Comito. Six Whitworth throwers are in the top seven of their events.