North Central College academic award caps off championship season
To cap off a championship season, the North Central College (NCC) Cardinals men's cross country team recently added a NCAA Division III Scholar Team of the Year award to its trophy case.
"Certainly the same characteristics that contribute to being successful as an athlete are the same for academics," Al Carius, head coach of the men's cross country team, said.
The Cardinals finished with an average grade-point average of 3.2, making them one of 173 Division III teams to finish the fall semester above 3.1. This made them eligible for the award, which was presented by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
NCC was one of six teams in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin to make the list. The others were Augustana College, Carroll University, Carthage College, North Park University and Wheaton College.
Carius said that success in the classroom comes from having a sorted set of priorities.
"We are philosophically guided every day," he said. "What I mean is that a value priority will help us as with making any decisions. If there is a conflict with choices, the top priority is religion, then family, then academics, and we would expect that athletic commitment would come next. So, academics will always take precedent over athletics. This shows yearly with our grade-point average."
The Cardinals also had six runners named academic all-Americans, an honor that requires a minimum 3.3 GPA and finishing in the top 25 at an NCAA regional meet. That brought the number of Cardinals to receive all-Academic honors to 28 since the honor was introduced in 2004.
Four of those six were also named all-Americans at the national championship, where the Cardinals not only claimed their 17th title, but also set a new national record for margin of victory, winning by 144 points.
Given that only two of those six are graduating this year, the Cardinals are well-positioned for success in the future. Carius said he has no concerns about the academic culture dropping off.
"It is an ongoing part of our culture to pass on the values and characteristics that lead to success," he said. "We talk about them daily."
As for next season, with the Cardinals defending regional and national titles, Carius is not concerned about the team getting overconfident or worrying too much about what's already been done.
"We treat every year as a new year and new beginning," he said. "The past is gone and each year we must start over to take the steps to be at our best at the end of the year. We really do not feel any pressure but always approach every new year and meet with positive expectation and a feeling of not concerning ourself with outcomes but just the process along the way."