MASON, Ohio -- After a trio of Cardinals fell due to wet course conditions, North Central (Ill.) fought back from a nearly insurmountable deficit during the final two kilometers to bring back its 16th national championship trophy.
North Central totaled 130 team points in team standings to claim its third national title in the past four years. St. Olaf, the runner-up, finished with 143 points while Wisconsin-La Crosse finished third with 188.
Travis Morrison was the first Cardinal to cross the finish line, tackling the 8,000-meter course in seventh-place in a time of 24:3.37. Aron Sebhat finished close behind in 12th, crossing the tape in 24:13.75.
"Before the race we talked about two things, believe in yourself and focus on the team," Morrison said. "Early on I saw Troy fall and saw Aron on my right side, so we knew it was going to be difficult right from the start. It's a strong synergy that holds this team together and I knew that once those guys fell they would get back up and give everything they could to climb back."
Teammates Troy Kelleher, Zach Plank and Ben Dickshinski who all fell within the first kilometer followed.
Plank and Kelleher finished in 44th and 46th-place, respectively, with times of 24:48.65 and 24:50.40. Ryan Root rounded out the Cardinal scoring in 58th-place with a time of 25:00.07. Dickshinski finished in 74th (25:06.68) and Tim Vazquez was the final Cardinal to cross the line in 79th place in 25:09.56.
Grant Wintheiser of St. Olaf was the individual champion, crossing the tape in 23:44.88.
North Central is the only institution to appear in all 42 NCAA Division III Men's Cross Country Championships and has finished among the top four on 38 occasions.