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North Central’s Luke Winder wins D-III pole vault title

by John Grochowski

For the Sun-Times

Luke Winder did everything you could ask of a freshman – and then some – in his first season on the North Central track team.

Already an indoor national champion, Winder added an outdoor crown Thursday on the first day of the NCAA Division III championships in Canton, N.Y. He was won of four North Central all-Americans, with Travis Morrison finishing sixth in the 10,000-meter run Thursday, then Aron Sebhat taking fourth in the 1,500 and Ryan Root fifth in the 3,000 steeplechase on Saturday.

As a team, the Cardinals were seventh with 22 points in a meet won by Wisconsin-La Crosse.

“How competitive he is,” Cardinals coach Frank Gramarosso said of Winder. “It’s unbelievable the maturity that he has. He was on the ropes a little bit. He had his struggles at 17 feet but made it on the third attempt, and then he and [Johns Hopkins sophomore Andrew Bartnett] kept battling back and forth with a miss and a pass, and it was really a nail biter.”

Bartnett put the pressure on by making his first attempt at 17-4 1/4. Winder missed, then passed to 17-6 1/4. There, he missed twice before making his final attempt to win the championship.

Morrison, the indoor 5,000 champion, is a senior with junior eligibility, but expects to move on for grad school. “He’s been looking at opportunities all spring to get a master’s degree and work in science,” said Gramarosso, whose team earlier this season achieved its primary goal of winning its fifth consecutive CCIW championship. “I don’t think outdoors was going quite his way until the national championships.”

Root, a grad student eligible because of previous injury, entered the meet ranked 20 th in the steeplechase, and only the top 20 qualify for nationals. “He really committed himself that he wanted to leave North Central as an all-American in steeplechase,” Gramarosso said. What a fabulous way to close.”

Sebhat, a junior, is a cross-county all-American who has been working with longtime head coach and current distance-middle distance coach Al Carius.

“Coach Carius has been working with him as a miler, and Aron is really gaining some confidence,” Gramarosso said.

Thornton All-America

Wheaton had a school-record 24 victories this softball season, and one of the big reasons was the play of CCIW player of the year Katie Thornton. Now Thornton, a junior has been named a second-team Division III all-American at the utility position by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.

As a pitcher, Thornton was 15-9 with three saves, a 1.82 earned-run average in 157 2/3 innings and set school records with 34 appearances and 132 strikeouts.

At the plate, she hit .420 with 28 runs scored and 29 RBI. Her 50 hits rank seventh for one season in Thunder history.

Wheaton has had two previous softball all-Americans, Lesley Guenard in 2011 and Amy Wallace in 1997.