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North Central off to strong start in indoor track

2009 North Central College Men's Cross Country

2009 North Central College Men's Cross Country

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Updated: March 3, 2014 4:36PM

For a program as
successful as North
Central has been in indoor track, just holding on to what you already have is a goal
worthy of the best.

‘‘Our first goal is to focus on the indoor CCIW championships, which we’ve never lost [in 13 tries since the meet was established],’’ Cardinals coach Frank Gramarosso said. ‘‘Individually, we’ll see how many qualifiers [we have] as we get into the last week of the season, and then you can kind of tell how you’re going to do on a national level.’’

Nationally, North Central is seventh in NCAA Division III in computer rankings compiled by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The Cardinals opened the season Saturday by winning the five-team Cardinal Opener in Naperville in a field that included No. 1 Wisconsin-La Crosse, No. 5 Wisconsin-Oshkosh, No. 17 Carthage and St. Norbert.

John Crain, the NCAA outdoor champion in the 10,000 meters and the runner-up in the 5,000 last year, won his first indoor 5,000 of the season in 14 minutes, 30.63 seconds, with teammate Troy Kelleher less than three seconds behind. In the early going, North Central runners rank second through sixth nationally in the event.

‘‘It is early, but certainly Johnny Crain and Troy Kelleher pretty much get in [the NCAA meet] at the end of the season,’’ Gramarosso said. ‘‘There are no more qualifying standards; they just take the top 15 athletes by the end of the indoor season. But they were very promising with their efforts.’’

There was a lot more promise, even though Pat Foley, an All-American in the 800 last year, sat out with back soreness. Ryan Thomason won the mile in 4:24.23 to lead the Cardinals to a 1-2-3 sweep. North Central also took the top three in the 800, with returning All-American Marlen Hamilton on top at 1:58.36. Abraham Oshiptan won the 200 in 22.42 seconds, tops in Division III so far this season.

The distance medley relay team of Ryan Bartell, Matt Muth, Dionte Hackler and Travis Morrison won in a nation-leading 10:14.15, and the 1,600 relay team of Hackler, Hamilton, Derek Nelson and Mustapha Olaoye was second in 3:21.68, fifth in the nation so far.

Gramarosso said he expects the 1,600 relay team to have a chip on its shoulder this season.

‘‘They actually placed last year [at the national meet] but then were disqualified for a lane violation,’’ he said. ‘‘They have that burr under their belt.’’

Karp, St. Xavier roll

Senior guard Brad Karp was named the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference player of the week for the fifth time this season as St. Xavier (20-2, 10-1) extended its winning streak to 16 games, one shy of the school record.

The Cougars are ranked fourth in NAIA Division II after beating Calumet 71-55 on
Jan. 22 and St. Francis of Joliet 84-72 on Saturday. Karp had 27 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block against Calumet and 22 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block against
St. Francis.

St. Xavier hosts top-ranked Cardinal Stritch on Saturday.

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