Growing up in the Bahamas, Denisha Cartwright had heard of Minnesota, but she didn't know anything about the state and likely never, ever envisioned herself running track in a place more suited for cross-country skiing.

So it might sound a little strange that she is putting Minnesota State Mankato on the map with her dominance in, yes, track and field. Sprinting, technically.

"I can handle the snow," she declared this week.

Thankfully, it's indoor season, and Cartwright and her teammates are handling the competition on the track with a remarkable run of dominance.

The Mavericks finished second at the NCAA Division II indoor national championships in 2021, won the national title last season and are ranked No. 1 and favored to repeat as champions this weekend in Virginia.

They posted the third-highest point total in Northern Sun history at the conference meet in late February. They finished third at an invitational hosted by the University of Iowa in January, ahead of Wisconsin and only 11 points behind Illinois and 17 behind the Hawkeyes.

"To win Division II national championships," said coach Mike Turgeon, "you need to have Division I athletes who choose the Division II level."

Turgeon has stocked his roster with high-caliber athletes, led by a dynamic duo of defending individual national champions, Cartwright and Makayla Jackson.

Cartwright and Jackson own the two fastest times nationally in Division II in the 60 meters this season. Cartwright also holds the fastest time in the 60-meter hurdles. Jackson has posted the five-best marks nationally in the long jump. And the pair are members of the 4x400 relay team that ranks among the best in D-II.

St. Paul's Lexie Hurst also ranks No. 1 nationally in the shot put. Several other team members rank top 10 in their events.

So how did Turgeon build this track powerhouse in Mankato?

Go back a decade or so. He was coaching at Winona State. His expertise has always been in throwing events. He always admired the work, and success, that Mavericks assistant coach Chris Parno had with his sprinters.

"Him and I made a joke," Turgeon said, "if we ever wanted to win team national titles, we should figure out how to coach with each other."

And now here they are.

Turgeon got hired as head coach six years ago and Parno stayed with him. The program finished 36th nationally in indoor in 2018, 56th in 2019. COVID canceled the next season.

Then, a second-place finish and a national championship.

That's the definition of building a program.

"I thought we would have a chance to be top four within the first five years," Turgeon said.

His roster offers an international flair. Two athletes are natives of the Bahamas, two from Jamaica, two from Norway and one each from France, Sierra Leone and Cyprus.

"It feels great because I'm not the only one far from home," Cartwright said. "You really don't feel alone."

Some of the international athletes transferred from other schools in the United States, including Cartwright. Turgeon also credits assistant coach Brian Sebera for his connections in international track and field.

Cartwright joked that she's able to learn snippets of other languages from her teammates. Jackson said she enjoys learning about different cultures.

"It's nice to have the variety and knowledge of the different cultures," she said.

They are bound by the same mission on the track. They want to dominate their competition.

Cartwright earned 30 points by herself at the NSIC meet, which topped the point total of five teams. Her goal is to win multiple events at nationals this weekend. Same with Jackson. And, of course, to bring home another team title too.

"I would love to have two rings," Jackson said. "A lot of people don't think that D-II has these types of athletes. For us to go there and win again would be so lovely."

The Mavericks won the championship in Kansas last season. On the bus ride home, Turgeon and his assistants sat in the front. It was around 11 p.m., and their conversation focused on recruiting and what holes they needed to fill in the roster to remain national contenders.

Clearly, they found the right answers.