Here are five absurd statistics of North Central's dominance in NCAA DIII cross country:
- The 2016 team won nationals by 144 points. The Cardinals could have scored all seven runners and still won by 50 points.
- North Central has won 17 NCAA DIII cross country titles, the most across all divisions. They have finished second 15 other times.
- There have been only five seasons out of 44 that North Central has failed to place on the podium at DIII NCAAs.
- The Cardinals have won 44 straight College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) conference titles. NCC has won the meet with a perfect score nine times.
- North Central has swept the top seven spots at CCIW five times.
There are, of course, some examples of other cross country dynasties. In Division I the Arkansas men's 11 cross country titles from 1984 to 2000 certainly qualifies their program, as does the Villanova women's six-year championship streak from 1989-1994 for the Wildcats. And with a combined 28 titles between the men's and women's programs all since 1990, Adams State can claim two ongoing DII dynasties.
But none of those programs boasts the sustained supremacy of North Central; the Cardinals have won at least one national championship in each of the last five decades, a feat that stands alone among NCAA cross country teams across any division.
Although NCC hasn't won more than three consecutive national titles, the DIII juggernaut has recorded unprecedented consistency. Since their first championship win in 1975, the Cardinals have endured only one drought of more than four years without a title, from 2000 to 2008. Every other NCAA team that has been a member since the start of North Central's reign has at some point gone longer without a championship.
Head coach Al Carius no doubt deserves the credit for assembling and maintaining this behemoth of program. Now coaching his 52nd season, Carius' incredible career highlights the importance of a consistent system guiding a program. The Cardinals have finished outside of the NCAA cross country top 10 just three times in Carius' reign, and his teams once went 32 years without doing so. Before their 12th-place finish in 2005, North Central landed on the podium 24 seasons in a row. That, too, is an NCAA record.
North Central's long red and white line of NCAA superiority will no doubt continue in 2017. After winning Division III's de facto Pre-Nats race, the Principia College Cowbell XC Invite, by 103 points, the current version of the dynasty firmly established itself as the overwhelming favorite for the 2017 title. NCC followed that performance with a perfect sweep of the top seven places at their conference meet last weekend. In three of the four previous seasons in which North Central has done that -- 1997, 1999, and 2009 -- they won the NCAA crown.
There's plenty of proof that NCC -- a tiny liberal arts college outside of Chicago -- is the class of cross country, regardless of division. North Central doesn't garner the praise they deserve, but their stunning resume surpasses every other top program not only in total championships won but in the consistent excellence they have displayed since the beginning of DIII history. The Arkansas men were brilliant in DI in the 1980s and '90s, but they haven't won a title since 2000. The Villanova women are currently in a six-year drought themselves. And while neither Adams State program has gone more than five years without a DII crown, they've only been competing in the NCAA since the '90s.
North Central College, with their sustained NCAA excellence for more than 40 years, is the premier NCAA cross country dynasty.
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