ELSAH, Ill. - Even with the weather fluctuating all morning, the North Central men's cross country team did not let it affect it as it coasted through the 8,000-meter (4.97-mile) course at Principia College and took home its 18th NCAA Division III Cross Country National Championship on Saturday.
The Cardinals took home the victory by scoring 57 points, with Wisconsin-La Crosse finishing in second with 196 points. Last year, North Central set the record for largest margin of victory at the Division III National Championship, while this year they were five points away from tying that record again. Coming in third place was Christopher Newport and in fourth was Amherst College. Darin Lau of Wisconsin-Eau Clarie took the individual crown, completing the course in 24 minutes, 3.59 seconds.
Candy stripe uniforms littered the field behind him though, with freshman Jared Borowsky (24:12.44) taking runner-up and junior Dhruvil Patel (24:14.15) not far behind in third. Fellow juniors Al Baldonado (24:34.92) and Matthew Norvell (24:42.24) took eighth and 17th, respectively. The final scorer for North Central was senior Dan O'Keefe (25:03.84), taking 45th place. The last two finishers for the Cardinals was senior Argeni Bailon (25:11.63) and junior Zach Hird (25:25.30) in 60th and 86th. For their efforts, Borowsky, Patel, Baldonado and Norvell received All-American honors.
"It was a tremendous team performance. We use the word 'team' but it's not a word, it's a feeling. It's not a word, it's an invisible bond that connects us all together. We need everyone's energy together heading in the same direction to get where we want to go. And that is what I saw out there today," said head coach Al Carius.
The Cardinals came out strong early in the wet and windy conditions, and were in good position to pick off their competition as they went through the race.
"Two years ago we didn't get out hard and got fifth. Last year we got out hard and we won. This year we got out even harder and won. Getting out hard is one of the most important parts of a big race like this," said Patel.
The end of the race saw the Cardinals moving up in the field, with all seven runners making up spots down the stretch.
"I just happen to always have a good kick," Borowsky said. "I knew behind me my teammates were doing well and I had that in the back of my mind and I just had to do it for them."
This marks the fifth time in the last eight years that North Central has won the DIII championship. It is also the 18th time in school history that the program has held the championship trophy (1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017) and is the 34th national championship won by North Central overall. In addition to the 18 cross country titles, North Central has won five indoor track and field titles (1989, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2017), six outdoor track and field titles (1989, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2010, 2011), one women's basketball title (1983) and four NAIA titles in men's swimming (1958, 1961, 1962, 1963)