DELAWARE, Ohio -- An orchestrated team effort yielded huge dividends for North Central on Thursday, as the Cardinals opened the 2014 NCAA Division III outdoor championships by securing three of the top five spots in the 10,000-meter run at Selby Stadium.

Leading the candy-striped crusade was senior John Crain, who claimed his fourth individual national championship and his third in the current calendar year. North Central now has 52 individual and relay national championships in men's track and field and 120 overall.

DIII TRACK & FIELD CHAMPIONSHIP
Championship Highlights | Photo Gallery
Men's Final: Mount Union wins school's first title
Women's Final: Wartburg wins third title in a row
Houston: Wartburg earns DIII three-peat
Houston: Mount Union stuns DIII favorite
Women Day 2: Warhawks sit atop leaderboard
Men Day 2: North Central (Ill.) leads field
Day 2 Recap
Houston: Eddy trying for decathlon comeback
Houston: RPI's Muchama looks to help native Kenya
Women's Day 1 Recap: Williams takes Day 1 lead
Men's Day 1 Recap: Crain leads North Central (Ill.)
Day 1 Recap
Houston: Eddy ready to stage comeback in decathlon
Houston: Wartburg's Elusme excited by future
Houston: McCormack from Flying Dutch to Wolverine
Live Championship Scoring
How they got here: Participants named
The race started off at a trot, as the entire field was tightly bunched for nearly four miles as each of the 20 competitors waited for one of the others to make the move that would define the race. The catalyst turned out to be Crain, who moved to the front of the pack with nine laps left in the 25-lap event and acted decisively to break up the pack. He subjected the field to a 4:28 mile late in the running that left him with only one nearby pursuer, Haverford's Chris Stadler.

With just under a mile to go, Crain eased off the pace and permitted Stadler, who outsprinted Crain to win the 2013 indoor national 5,000 championship, to move in front. Crain conserved energy for three laps before bolting back into the lead with a 62-second final 400, hitting the finish line in 31 minutes, 11.83 seconds. After covering the opening 5,000 in 16:31, he toured the final half of the race in 14:40.

As Crain stretched out the field, the Cardinals' Troy Kelleher and Roger Kleinmoved up through the pack as well, each coming through with a strong stretch run to snag All-America honors for the first time. Kelleher took third place in 31:20.42, while Klein placed fifth in 31:25.07. North Central was also represented in the race by Travis Morrison, who placed 16th in 32:18.55.

Also in action Thursday was North Central's 4-by-400 relay team, which turned in a season-best time to qualify for Saturday's final. Derek Nelson, Dionte Hackler, Mustapha Olaoye and Zach Kirby were clocked in 3:11.60, the Cardinals' best effort in the event this year by more than a second, to place second in their qualifying heat and fourth overall in the preliminaries.The Cardinals' Ryan Rootcompeted in the qualifying heats of the 3,000 steeplechase and took a nasty tumble over a barrier after a mid-air collison on the second lap, winding up 17th-fastest in the field with a time of 9:23.51.