LA CROSSE, Wis. -- The top-ranked Wartburg Knights wear the bull's-eye for this week’s 2013 Division III Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Hosted by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, this year’s national championship meet may see Wartburg fending off its host. The No. 2-ranked UW-La Crosse Eagles were top-ranked until the latest United States Track and Field Cross County Coaches Association poll, which propelled the Knights past them on May 15.

Illinois College, Wisconsin-Oshkosh (the defending runner-up) and Buffalo State complete the women’s top five, respectively, in the rankings. UW-Oshkosh won the 2011 national championship.

This year’s three-day meet -- Thursday through Saturday -- will be staged at Roger Harring Stadium in the Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex.

The Division III men's championships are occurring simultaneously at the same venue, and UW-La Crosse is hosting both meets.

The Knights, from Waverly, Iowa, qualified 13 individuals in 13 events, including the 4x400 relay team, which will seek a seventh consecutive NCAA championship in that event. They’re also coming off their 14th consecutive, and 17th overall, Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship, which they won two weeks ago. Wartburg’s 77-point margin of victory against UW-Oshkosh in last year’s NCAA championships was the largest in meet history.

Seven individual athletes from various schools, plus the Wartburg 4x400 relay team, will attempt to defend their 2012 NCAA titles. The list for field events includes Rose-Hulman senior Liz Evans in the high jump and Illinois College senior Melissa Norville in the triple jump.

The five defending individual champions in track events are Amherst senior Keri Lambert in the steeplechase, Birmingham-Southern junior Tiarra Goode in the 100-meter hurdles, Montclair State junior Heather Gearity in the 400 hurdles, Mount Union senior Mary Mahoney in the 200-meter dash and UW-Oshkosh junior Christy Cazzola in the 1,500 meters.

Junior Karly Cochrane, sophomores Taylor Moore and Kayla Kregel and senior Kendra Kregel form the Wartburg 4x400 relay team.

Rose-Hulman's Liz Evans
Rose-Hulman Athletics

Cazzola, Lambert, Gearity, Evans and Norville all are the top-ranked competitors in their events. Mahoney is ranked second in the 200-meter dash. Goode is ranked fifth in the 100-meter hurdles. And, Wartburg’s 4x400 relay team is ranked sixth in its event heading into this week’s NCAA meet; Kendra Kregel is the only returning member from 2012 national championship team.

Several athletes already have turned in stellar outdoor seasons. Mahoney may be ranked second in the 200 meters, but she’s top-ranked in the 100-meter dash and at 400 meters. Cazzola ran DIII’s second-fastest recorded time in the 1,500 meters (4 minutes, 18.22 seconds) during the Mt. SAC Relays on April 20. She’s also ranked third at 800 meters and 16th at 5,000 meters.

St. Thomas (Minn.) junior Taylor Berg, the top-ranked woman at 5,000 meters, also set a DIII record at the same Mt. SAC Relays, running the event’s fastest time of 16:34.61.

Aside from her title defense in the 100-meter hurdles, Goode ranks third in the 100-meter dash and finished third in that event at last year’s NCAA meet. She is the top-ranked woman in the 200 meters, after finishing third in that event in last year’s NCAA meet.

Expect Wartburg’s Camesha Goods to challenge Goode in the 100-meter hurdles. Wartburg’s Goods is a two-time All-American in the event and finished as the runner-up to Goode in last year’s NCAA title event.

Evans may be riding the season’s hottest streak. She’s set a DIII record for the high jump three times this outdoor season. Her best came at the University of Louisville Cardinal Invitational on May 10, when Evans became the first athlete in DIII history to clear 6 feet. As a bonus, the record serves as her provisional qualifier for the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships scheduled for June 19-23 at Drake University.