Enterprise High School grad David Ribich has become the only known national champion in Wallowa County’s history after winning the 1500-meter race at the NCAA Division II track and field championships.
Ribich, who attends Western Oregon University, won with a time of 3:49.64. He went into the race ranked first in the nation at the distance.
Ribich, 21, and a six-time All-American in his sport, said he felt good about his chances going into the race, but still worked hard on strategy beforehand. Impetus was provided by knowing he was racing Southern Indiana’s Bastian Grau, who won the indoor championship in the same race earlier this year.
“My ultimate goal was to position myself somewhere in the front, and when Bastian made his move, I’d be able to quickly respond and hang on there and make it a race,” Ribich said.
Sure enough, Grau flew around to Ribich’s outside 700 meters into the race May 27 in Bradenton, Fla. The WOU athlete tucked in and told himself the race was his. It was.
After three years in college, Ribich remains the epitome of the student athlete, continuously maintaining a place on the school’s honor roll despite his hectic training schedule.
Ribich’s mother, Jenny Reinheardt, attended the meet and wasn’t surprised at her son’s success.
“It’s great he’s doing all these achievements. (Ribich was also part of a WOU distance medley team that set an NCAA national indoor record in March). It’s a great win. His times are just stepping stones to achieve his goals,” she said. However, his steps into adulthood are more important to her.
Ribich noted a speech given last weekend at a WOU fundraiser.
“That actually hit me more than his races. In the races, I still see the boy, but in his articulation in talking to a group of 300 people, I saw the person he’s becoming,” she said.
Ribich’s father, Michael, said that during the speech, his son received three standing ovations and several post-graduation job offers.
Although Ribich generally spends at least some time in Wallowa County during the summer, this year is already spoken for with an internship in the WOU athletic department while earning nine credits toward graduation in communications and sports leadership.
“It’ll also help out the school, because they’ve done a lot to help me,” he said
“He almost sounded more proud of the distance medley win because it was a team effort. He keeps getting better, and I don’t think he’s finished yet. I’m so proud to call him my son,” Michael said.
Ribich will also spend three weeks training younger runners at the Steens Mountain Running Camp in July.
How does the best Division II 1500 meter runner in the nation plan to stay motivated?
Ribich and a couple friends intend to race Sunday in Portland to try to hit a qualifying time for the professional USA National Meet.
“If you make it into the top three there, you represent USA at world’s (championships). It’s a super, super long shot for all of us, but we’re just racing one last weekend to kind of decompress from the long season ... This last race is a final hurrah of our fitness where we can just kind of tuck in and run and feel good about it.”