LA CROSSE, Wis. -- North Central (Ill.) got a pair of elite performances in the first day of the NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships on Thursday, winning an individual national title and nearly claiming another.

The Cardinals' Josh Winder won the national title in the pole vault, claiming the program's fourth consecutive outdoor championship in the event and winning North Central's 116th individual national crown.

Winder led throughout the opening day's competition, passing on the first three heights before clearing his first attempt at 16-3/4 inch. He sailed over two more bars at 16'2-3/4 and 16'4 3/4 to stay ahead of the field. As the bar was raised to 16'6-3/4, only Winder and Zach Ferrara of Brockport State remained.

"A common theme at North Central is, 'Stay in the process,'" Winder said. "[Thursday] was a day I truly dove into the process. I really felt like I was in the zone. I tried not to let emotions take control. Whenever I needed a little more fuel, I might have dug into the emotions a little bit, but I never dwelt on them."

Winder and Ferrara both missed on all three attempts at 16'6-3/4, and Winder was declared the champion based on the fewest missed attempts. He added the championship to his 2012 indoor national title and claimed the eighth overall men's pole vault championship for the Cardinals.

"I felt really good at every bar," Winder said. "But sometimes vaulting just doesn't work out. If I had made that last bar, it could have been a big day, a season's best day."

Adding a second-place finish to North Central's haul for the day was John Crain, who made a strong bid to win the national title in the 10,000-meter run before winding up as a close runner-up.

Crain broke away with a pack of three other runners early on, who pressed the pace and broke away from the rest of the pack in the first few circuits of the 25-lap race. With just more than a mile to go, Crain inched forward and took the lead in an attempt to clear himself from the rest of the field.

"I was not expecting that at all," Crain said of the early breakaway. "I expected everyone to stayed packed together for the first mile or two. It was tough getting out that fast because I'm not really used to that, but you've got to roll with the punches and get in there and compete."

With a lap to go, Crain and Wisconsin-Eau Claire's Aaron Easker battled back and forth for the lead. Down the stretch, Crain attempted to move in front, but was denied as Easker opened a narrow gap and held it to the finish line. Easker hit the finish line in 29:48.25, with Crain following in a personal-best time of 29:49.45.

North Central had three other competitors in the 10,000 as Daniel Kerley placed 10th (30:40.20), Roger Klein finished 11th (30:43.87) and Travis Morrison came in 19th (32:31.54). The Cardinals' Frank Wleklinski placed 11th in the pole vault (15'1) and Zach Heerspink placed 16th in the long jump (22'6-1/2).

Finishing 16th in the preliminary heats of the 3,000 steeplechase was Jordan Kremer (9:20.66). The 4x400 relay team of Abraham Oshipitan, Dionte Hackler, Derek Nelson and Joey Michals came in 12th. Michals also competed individually in the 400 hurdles, clocking a time of 54.45 seconds in his heat to place 18th.