NEW ORLEANS -- Wartburg’s 2012 outdoor title was an exercise in dominance with a cumulative team score of 129 -- the highest ever under the current scoring system -- that more than doubled that of runner-up UW-Oshkosh (52) and nearly tripled third-place Mount Union’s 34. Wartburg finds itself in that familiar position to open the 2013 outdoor campaign, as the computer rankings have projected the Knights No. 1 with 229.41 team points, well ahead of No. 2 UW-Oshkosh with 153.67.

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A consecutive title for Wartburg would make it the first school to win in consecutive years since UW-Oshkosh in 2006-07. The Knights have the significant firepower needed to make a run at the title, as they return 13 performers that rank among the top 10 returners from 2012 and the early part of 2013 outdoors in their respective events, including the defending outdoor champ at both 5,000 and 10,000 meters in sophomore Alana Enabnit. Junior Tashina McAllister is the preseason No. 2 in the 400 hurdles and is No. 4 in the 100 hurdles to add another multiple-event threat.

UW-Oshkosh has either won or finished runner-up at eight of the past nine DIII Outdoor Championships, most recently winning in 2011. Another run at a top-tier finish will be led by senior distance runner Christy Cazzola, who is coming off arguably the best season by a distance runner in indoor DIII history, and senior thrower Breanna Strupp. Cazzola, the defending outdoor champ at 1,500 meters, set three individual DIII indoor collegiate records (800, mile, 5,000) this season and was a member of the division’s all-time fastest DMR squad. Strupp is the defending shot put champ and is also ranked No. 1 in the discus and No. 4 in the hammer throw among returners.

Williams (113.29) will begin the season at No. 3, tied for an all-time program high, with six returners ranked among the top 10 in their respective events. The Ephs have a pair of triple-threats in Tanasia Hoffler, ranked No. 3 in the triple jump, No. 6 in the long jump and No. 13 in the 100 hurdles; and junior thrower Amina Avril, ranked No. 2 in the hammer, No. 4 in the discus and No. 16 in the shot put.

Illinois Wesleyan (101.76) is ranked No. 4, while George Fox rounds out the top five with an all-time program high ranking at No. 5.