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North Central runs away with another CCIW title

North Central runner John Crain

North Central runner John Crain

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Updated: December 9, 2013 11:05AM

For North Central’s cross-country team, the streak is at 40 and counting.

On Saturday at St. James Farm in Warrenville, Division III No. 1 North Central scored a perfect 15 points for the seventh time in the CCIW championships, giving coach Al Carius not only his 40th consecutive conference title, but his 44th in 48 years of coaching.

How do you go 40 years without a stumble?

“In my opinion, the secret really is to treat every year separately and to focus on the now,” said Carius, whose teams have 15 national titles and 14 runner-up finishes in 39 years of NCAA Division III competition. “Focus on the moment, focus on the process of this year. We’ll tell our guys we’re building the now, but we’re also looking into the future. Focusing on this year’s team and this year’s process and this year’s experience is critically important, and then one year builds on the next.”

John Crain, who finished the 8,000-meter course in 24:20.8, gave North Central its fourth consecutive individual champion and its 32nd in program history.

“Johnny, he’s got that something inside of him that anybody who really maximizes his God-given talent has,” Carius said. “That inner strength, inner confidence, inner focus. He has talent, but he has commitment, discipline, work ethic, he’s a team player, he’s loyal to his teammates. He’s got this drive inside of him that is an accumulation of all these characteristics that help him to be the best he can be.”

With 40 years of highlights, is there one team that stands out?

“I think one of the years that really got my attention and I learned a lot from was 1975,” Carius said. “It was the first national championship we ever won, and it was a group of guys we named ‘The No-Names.’ Individually, they did not have individual accomplishments that would stand out and impress anybody. But somehow, when you put them together, there was a synergistic effect where they just went out and were successful.

“They won a national title, and that got my attention. You really have to have that chemistry, that cohesiveness, collective confidence and positive expectation. You’ve got to have a unified goal that you set for yourself. That team was a very big growth step for me. You kind of say, ‘Wow, if they can do it, then other teams can, too.’ ”

Football races

No. 4 North Central (8-0, 5-0) is alone at the top the CCIW after beating No. 17 Illinois Wesleyan (7-1, 4-1) 46-17. Next up is a Saturday trip to No. 19 Wheaton (7-1, 4-1) in the annual battle for the Little Brass Bell.

St. Francis of Joliet (6-3, 4-1) stands atop the MSFA Mideast League and has cracked the NAIA rankings at No. 20. The Fighting Saints host No. 11 St. Ambrose (6-2, 4-1 Midwest) in an MSFA crossover game on Saturday.

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