It’s been quite a month for recent Western Oregon University graduate and Enterprise High School alum David Ribich.
From May 26 to June 23 Ribich compiled a list of accomplishments many athletes would hope to earn in an entire season.
On May 26, he repeated as the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II champion in the men’s 1,500-meter run. On June 10, he made his debut with Brooks Running Company after signing a professional contract with the Seattle-based firm a couple days earlier. Five days later he was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Male Athlete of the Year. He was then selected as the Ad Rutschman Small College Male Athlete of the Year at the Oregon Sports Awards June 20. And he capped it off by competing in the men’s 1,500 finals at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships June 23 in Des Moines, Iowa, where he finished 12th.
“Whirlwind is probably the best word for it,” Ribich said. “At NCAAs the focus of that weekend was to try to repeat, but (also) to enjoy the weekend with the team. We brought six other women and two other guys. That was my final experience as a collegiate athlete.”
If that wasn’t enough, he was also studying for finals during that stretch.
“On top of balancing getting a professional deal and finishing my studies, it a was pretty stressful time. I had incredible coaches, teammates, friends and family constantly supporting me,” he said.
It also caps off a six-month period that saw him break the all-time NCAA DII record in the 1,500 in outdoors and in both the 1,000 and 3,000 in indoors. He also joined the small group of athletes in history to run under a four-minute mile when he clocked in at 3:58.88 Jan. 27, among other accolades during his senior campaign.
Ribich, though, said he can trace all the recent success to a race victory claimed during his junior year. That’s when Ribich anchored the WOU distance medley relay team that won a DII indoor national championship by a mere 0.01 seconds.
“That was one of the highlights of (my) career. It pushed all of us to achieve that level of capability,” he said.
Ribich said it gave everyone on the track team an attitude of “Why can’t we win more?” — which ended up happening for himself and members of both the men’s and women’s teams.
Ribich also said without that victory, everything that has happened since might not have transpired.
“It’s all connected,” he said.
That includes signing on with Brooks. Ribich said Brooks was the first company to make contact with him, doing so back in December 2017.
“When I went up there (to visit) I felt at home. I had a good connection with everyone on the team, and they seemed happy to be there,” he said.
He said every company he met with from that point on — Nike, New Balance, Adidas, etc. — had to meet the standard of that first experience. Brooks ultimately won out.
“When I saw Brooks, I saw this vision of who I can become,” he said.
On the track, his focus over the next few years is training in the 1,500 for the 2020 Olympic Trials. He said he still has some time to shave off his personal best of 3:37.35 in the event just to qualify.
“I need to run 3:36. A focus within the next few years (is) running that time,” he said.
Ribich, though, isn’t necessarily going to be strictly a 1,500 runner.
“My coach and I agreed my event isn’t limited,” he said, noting he could run an 800 or a 3,000.
Off the track, he’s beginning work to encourage other small-school athletes to pursue their goals with his “Small School, Big Dreams” campaign.
“I want people to say, ‘David did this. He came from (a small) school. Why can’t I?’” Ribich explained.
He said the exact vision for the campaign is being fleshed out, but noted he has already done speaking engagements. He also logged his routine each day of the last year up to signing with Brooks and plans to publish the log one day.
He hopes to show athletes from small schools, like the one he attended in Enterprise, that “wherever you are, you can put in the work.”
His former high school coach, Dan Moody, said it’s “phenomenal that I’ve had the fortune to be able to coach someone like that.”
He also called Ribich the best runner to come out of Enterprise.
“He’s a world-class runner,” Moody said. “I’ve had some really good runners but nothing in his category.”
Moody said the two talk often, and that he’s even taken tips from Ribich to give to his current runners at EHS.
“He’s shown me some workouts I really like for the kids. The team tends to listen more when I say, ‘This is what David does,’” Moody said.
The coach added he believes the best still lies ahead for Ribich, which would be saying something considering what he’s already accomplished.
“I’m expecting so many great things from him,” Moody said.