Submitted by North Central College
The men's track and field team took a large leap forward in the team standings at the end of the final day of the NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships on Saturday, scoring 30 points in the final two events and winding up fifth in the 84-team field.
The Cardinals saved their best performance for last, sweeping the top three spots in the pole vault, which was the final event to be contested. After Peter Geraghty, John Wood and Josh Winder cleared 16 feet, 6 3/4 inches, they found themselves to be the only ones remaining in the competition and proceeded to push their limits after the team points had been secured.
Wood and Geraghty each cleared 17'6 1/2" on the second attempt, tying the Division III Championship meet record, then elected to raise the bar to 17'8 1/2". Geraghty sailed over the bar on his first attempt, securing a new personal best and his second straight outdoor national title. It marks the sixth time a Cardinal has won a national championship in the vault and the 115th individual national title in North Central's history.
For Geraghty, who missed the entire indoor season due to injury, the performance capped off a long road back to competition that he credited his teammates with helping him through.
"The biggest thing it took was patience," he said. "I think a big part of what brought me through this whole experience was being on a team that had the same mindset that I had. It was a tough experience, but there was no drag or catch anywhere in the process of getting better.
"It turned from a meet where we had to score points to just a fun meet. We wanted to get the top three places, and after that it just became a fun meet where we could just jump at bars, and it was just a dream. It was really, really awesome."
The Cardinals had a total of five vaulters in the competition. Frank Wleklinskiplaced 18th with a height of 15'7", while Thomas Stacey, who had been battling an injury of his own, did not clear a height.
"It's a blessing, and something that probably won't pass this way again, so you have to cherish it," said North Central pole vault coach Tim Winder. "It's just a testament to those young men. Their regimen is not easy. They train hard, and you can see the results. Hard work pays off, and it really has for our program for a long duration of time. They've each had their own adversity to work through, and they deserve the accolades that they get."
The Cardinals also got a third-place finish in the 4-by-400-meter relay, asJonathan Caron, Dionte Hackler, Marlen Hamilton and Jon Howard came within a half-second of a national title of their own. The quartet turned in a time of 3 minutes, 10.99 seconds, the second-fastest in school history and the fastest a North Central team has run in a national-championship meet. Rowan University (N.J.) won the race for the second straight year in 3:10.56, while Augustana College placed second (3:10.70).
"We definitely stepped up big-time," said Hamilton, who stepped in as an alernate after Bai Kabba was unable to compete due to injury. "We were fourth coming out of the prelims, and we just went out and put it all on the line. We put it together and were able to pop off a sick time."
Also competing for the Cardinals on Saturday was javelin thrower Mike Giaquinto, who finished 15th with a distance of 193'6", and distance runners Dan Kerley andJohn Crain, who finished 10th (14:42.34) and 16th (14:54.30), respectively, in the 5,000-meter run.
North Central totaled 32 1/3 points in the three-day meet, also getting a seventh-place finish from Kerley in the 10,000-meter run on Thursday before Zach Heerspink finished in a three-way tie for eighth place in the high jump on Friday. McMurry University (Tex.) won the meet with 66 points.
The North Central College women's track and field team finished off its showing in the 2012 NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships on a positive note Saturday, as javelin thrower Brianna Tolliverturned in a personal-best effort in claiming her first All-America accolades at Fritz B. Burns Stadium.
Tolliver, whose school-record throw of 139 feet, 6 inches ranked 12th among the 22 women competing on Saturday, outdid herself by more than a foot on her first throw of the day, uncorking a throw of 140'8" and briefly leading the field before winding up fourth after her three preliminary throws.
She nearly matched her initial effort on the first throw in the finals, posting a distance of 139'8", and stood in sixth place when the competition ended to earn a spot on the podium in her second trip to the championships. She is the second North Central female student-athlete to earn All-America honors in the javelin throw and the first since 1985.
The Cardinals' Elizabeth Composto finished 12th in the pole vault, clearing 12' 1 1/2", while Krista Cota came in 11th in the finals of the 1,500-meter run, finishing in 4:41.17.