MASON, Ohio -- North Central (Ill.) has built a cross country dynasty winning 15 NCAA Division III National Championships, including three of the past six years. They were second the three years they didn’t bring home the Bronze and Walnut. The Cardinals bring an impressive list of credentials to the 2014 championships, but they also bring in the sting of failing to live up to those expectations in 2013 -- finishing second to St. Olaf.In winning the Midwest Regional, the Cardinals upended four top-25 opponents. Race participants third-ranked Wisconsin-Eau Claire, fourth-ranked Wisconsin-Lacrosse and 12th ranked Washington (Mo.) also hail from the vaunted Midwest regional. Wisconsin-Stout, which is ranked 17th, also will be competing in the national championship race.
It will not be the first time the Cardinals have competed at the Golf Center at Kings Island as they dominated the 2014 pre-national meet in September. North Central runners were the first four to the line. The meet featured four teams that will be competing Saturday.
Troy Kelleher was victorious at the pre-national meet, followed by Travis Morrison (23:54.40), Ryan Root (23:54.43) and Tim Vazquez (24:00.45). Aron Sebhat, the 2014 Midwest Regional champion, finished 30 seconds behind the Kelleher.
The 2014 championship race features 10 schools that have claimed the title previously, including 20 of the past 22 championships. North Central has won eight of those titles, while Calvin has won four championships since 2000, with the most recent title in 2006.
Other teams to have won multiple championships in the field are Wisconsin-LaCrosse (1996, 2001, 2005), St. Thomas (1984, 1986) and Williams (1994, 1995).
Widener makes its first appearance at the NCAA Division III Cross Country championships Saturday.