College Track: John Crain lead North Central contingent to indoor nationals

North Central College senior John Crain hopes to end his indoor track career at NCC with a national championship in the 5,000 meters, and he’ll have four teammates to help him achieve that goal at the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships in Lincoln, Neb. this weekend.

Five Cardinals qualified for the event, a third of the field. That will help Crain, who was the runner-up in the event indoors last year before rebounding to win the outdoor national championship in the 5,000.

“This is probably the strongest representation we’ve had,” Crain said. “That’s a big confidence boost because for every guy that we have in there, that’s one less guy that I have to beat. I’m super proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish this season.”

Crain got his qualifying for the 5,000 out of the way early this season. His time of 14:30.63 places him fifth in the field, despite running it way back on Jan. 24 when he was just rounding into shape. Teammates Troy Kelleher, Ben Dickshinski, Luke Nally and Ryan Root also qualified in the field of 15 in the 5,000.

“Our second place cross country national team has really come through for us with the number of distance runner we have that qualified,” NCC coach Frank Gramarosso said. “It’s a tough field. We’re running with the best.”

There is a new event at nationals this season, the 3,000, and the Cardinals took full advantage. Crain is the national leader with a time of 8:11.42, which currently ranks sixth all-time in Division III. Kelleher is doubling in the event as well. Travis Morrison also qualified for the Cardinals.

The 5,000 will be run on Friday, with the 3,000 to follow Saturday. The majority of the field is going to attempt to double in both events. Crain also helped the medley relay team qualify for nationals, but West Aurora graduate Matt Muth will sub for him as an alternate at nationals so he can run his two solo races.

“I could not be more confident knowing what I can do,” Crain said. “My mentality is that I’m going to go out there and have my race and do the best that I can and that’s going to lead to great things. My goal is to stay focused on myself and stay nice and calm and relaxed. It’s just another track meet. If you treat it as such, great things will come out of that.”

Mustapha Olaoye will be part of the 1,600 relay and will also run the open 400 for the Cardinals, who have 11 total entries in the national field.

The women’s team is also well-represented, with six entries in the national field. Leading the way is two-time indoor All-American Elizabeth Composto, who is seeded third in the pole vault. Brook Patterson also is competing in the pole vault.

Ebony Stallworth and Jocelyn Redlinski will compete in the shot put at nationals. Madison Renfro represents NCC in the 60 hurdles, while Nora Ferguson will run the mile.

The national championships will be held Friday and Saturday at the Bob Devaney Sport Center. The Cardinals will be traveling by bus, due to the NCAA mandate that a school must be 500 miles away from the site to fly. North Central is 499 miles away from Lincoln. The Cardinals are scheduled to stop at Grinnell for a workout on the way to Nebraska.