BIRMINGHAM, Ala. —They say that every second counts.
Western Oregon’s distance medley relay team of Dusting Nading, AJ Holmberg, Josh Dempsey and David Ribich found out every tenth, hundredth and even thousandth of a second can make a world of difference at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships on Friday.
“When we came in with a 9 minute, 45 second (qualifying time), we ran that one time and we only did one relay all year, we said each of us can easily take two seconds off our split, and we planned to come out and run a 9:40,” Ribich said. “But the problem was we didn’t expect other teams to come out here and run 9:40.”
The distance medley relay, consisting of a 1,200-meter first leg, 400-meter second leg, 800-meter third leg and 1,600-meter anchor, became a battle of wills between the Wolves and defending champion Adams State.
By the time the two anchor runners — Ribich from WOU and Oliver Aitchison — crossed the finish, they were in a virtual dead heat.
Both teams finished with a time of 9:40.14 — setting a new NCAA Division II indoor record.
But the Wolves finished in 9:40.144. Adams State crossed in 9:40.145.
“I’ll be sitting in a retirement home reminiscing and telling the story about the time we won a national championship and set the national record,” Dempsey said.
Nading ran the first leg, followed by Holmberg, Dempsey and Ribich.
“I couldn’t, in any scenario, have chosen a better group of guys to win a national championship with,” Nading said.
The quartet’s success was the culmination of nearly three months of training.
“This championship wasn’t earned (on Friday),” Holmberg said. “It was earned in December when campus was empty and we were the only ones there.”
With all four members of the relay team set to return next year, the Wolves figure to be in a prime position to defend their title, but that will be a challenge for another day.
WOU also saw success in individual events on Saturday. Ribich took third in the men’s mile final, while Nading finished fourth. Dempsey placed sixth in the 800 final. The women saw Suzanne Van De Grift and Olivia Woods take fifth and sixth in the 800 finals. Each athlete competing earned All-American honors.
Western Oregon’s track and field teams will kick off its outdoor season at the Lewis and Clark Spring Break Open on Saturday.