Distance runners make history en route to looming National meet


Photo courtesy Loraine Klein

While the North Central men’s track and field team won conference for the 14th consecutive year, an impressive feat in its own right, doing so by sweeping the top five spots in the two long distance races is rare territory.

How rare of territory?

Try never.

Never has a team placed their five runners atop the field in the 3,000 and 5,000 meter runs in CCIW conference championship history. Not only were they history making races, they also netted the Cardinals 30 percent of their overall points.

Now on the eve of departing for Nebraska for the NCAA Division III National Track and Field meet, we caught up with four of the long distance runners to gather their thoughts on the conference and national meet.

Question: How much does it help your personal race to run with a pack of Cardinal runners from start to finish?

John Crain: Being focused on the team really takes the focus off performance, and just the moment with your teammates.

Roger Klein: The emotion was more powerful than I could put into words. It felt like cross country again, and with 50+ guys screaming from the sidelines, it made the whole experience almost surreal.

Question: How special is it to continue dominance over the conference title?

Travis Morrison: The conference meet has always been a special meet for me. Since freshman year it has been clear that winning the conference meet is a strong reflection of team unity and strength.  I believe that as special as conference is to me, I think it’s more important to show the underclassmen the importance of bringing everyone together and achieving what we did.

RK: It’s nice to have a positive result from a team standpoint, but I think it is important to never settle, even with a win streak as long as it is. Complacency should never set in.

Question: Based off of this past week’s performance, how do you think you and the team will perform during Nationals?

Luke Nally: I think we’ll perform really well at Nationals. Our team has all the pieces we need to perform well, so it’s just a matter of us going out and doing it and I have no doubt that we will do that. This whole season, we’ve been looking at winning the championship and we definitely have the ability to bring home a trophy.

TM: At the beginning of the year North Central was not expected to achieve much on the indoor national level.  People around the nation expected a few individuals to show up in Lincoln and walk away with a few All-American certificates.  Our goal all along has been to score points and run fast. This year were showing up as a team that has a much larger focus than walking away with a couple All-American certificates.  I believe if we put forth a strong effort collectively anything can and will happen, and the result will be a positive one.

Question: What position does this put you in for Nationals?

JC: Getting a few more guys into the national meet really improves our chances.

RK: I’m not exactly sure. From a distance standpoint, we’re in good shape. A few younger guys really stepped up this indoor season and I believe they can lead the team into the future (even beyond nationals).

Question: How hard is it to not approach the conference and nationals differently than other races?

TM: The secret is to approach all races the same.  The mile is always a mile, the 5k is always a 5k and the 3k is always a 3k.  I believe by focusing and treating every race (and even practice) with the same approach all the time, you’re destined to have a great result.  Running is always going to be an uncomfortable sport, as a runner, our only job is to make uncomfortable feel comfortable.

LN: I’ve never raced Nationals before, but racing Conference was the exact same as racing any other race, just a little bit more exciting. Everyone cheers just a little bit louder, which makes the race more fun. But the actual act of running the race is the exact same. Psyching ourselves out for a race isn’t going to help. We go in with the same expectation and confidence as we do every other race.

Question: Anything funny happen during conference?

LN:  Funny story from that trip…I guess Roger forgetting his jersey again. He runs really well when he forgets his jersey. [Also] Derek Nelson ran over a guy.

The Cardinals will bring 11 entrants into the national meeting starting this Friday in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Cardinals have five participants in the 5,000 meter run, led by Crain, who is joined by Nally, Ben Dickshinski, Troy Kelleher and Ryan Root. They also have three in the 3,000 meter run, also led by Crain and Kelleher and accompanied by Morrison.

Crain and Morrison will team up with Derek Nelson and Richard Ruske for the distance medley relay. While Nelson doubles up in the 4X400 meter run with Dionte Hackler, Abraham Oshipitan and Mustapha Olaoye.


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