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SMALL COLLEGES: North Central track stays on the go

Updated: February 13, 2013 5:36PM

After 28 years as an assistant to North Central men’s track coach Al Carius, Frank Gramarosso took over as head coach for the 2010-11 academic year.

How has life changed? Not that much.

“Al still coaches our distance runners all year long, cross-country, indoor and outdoor,” Gramarosso said. “He’s still the head cross-country coach. I was the administrator before, and I was coaching sprinters and relay teams. There’s not a huge difference in what I’m doing, except I’m named the head coach.”

Life hasn’t changed much for his team, either. The Cardinals have two NCAA Division III national championships indoors and one outdoors under Gramarosso after winning two indoors and five outdoors under Carius.

North Central is poised to make another run at the top with the Division III championship meet coming to its Residence Hall/Recreation Center in Naperville this March. Seven returning indoor All-Americans are the nucleus of a team ranked No. 3 by the latest United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. An eighth, Bai Kabba, who ran on last year’s first-place 4x400-meter relay team, is out with a knee injury.

The sprint group remains strong, led by junior Dionte Hackler, another member of that championship relay team, and fellow All-American Marlen Hamilton.

“Dionte Hackler has turned into a great team leader,” Gramarosso said. “He’s the captain this year and he’s really holding together our sprint group that lost a great person in Bai Kabba.”

And then there’s the pole-vault group. Two-time outdoor national champion Pete Geraghty has been CCIW field athlete of the week the last two weeks and leads Division III with his 17-0¾ vault Friday in the Tadd Metzger Invitational at Carthage. Last year’s indoor champion, Josh Winder, also returns, as does Thomas Stacey, fourth indoors a year ago, and Frank Wleklinski, a national outdoor qualifier in 2012.

National leaders

Phil Rizzo of St. Francis of Joliet won the 5,000 meters in 14:39.28 on Saturday at the Indiana Relays, the fastest time in the NAIA this season. Hilary Halford of the women’s team also is a national leader with a 9:51.27 in the 3,000. Both were cross-country All-Americans in the fall as St. Francis’ men won the NAIA championship and the women placed 17th.

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