COLLEGE CROSS-COUNTRY: Ribich, Wolves ready to go on the hunt

MONMOUTH — Western Oregon’s top cross-country runners have been waiting for this moment.

The Wolves will compete at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships Saturday in Bellingham, Wash.

At stake are team and individual championships — and a chance to show the culmination of all the hard work and dedication.

“(Coach Mike) Johnson always says the time for talking is over,” senior David Ribich said. “It’s time to race.”

For Western Oregon’s top runners, Saturday couldn’t come soon enough.

Aside from the San Francisco State Invitational on Sept. 22, many of the Wolves’ top runners have not raced this season, with Johnson opting to focus on training.

“I think it’s a really smart plan,” Ribich said. “We raced once and then had a good, long five weeks of training.”

The weeks of training without a chance to race against other schools could have been a detriment to team morale in years past.

But the Wolves know that the preparation has all led to this.

“The year before it would have been a pretty big downside for me,” Ribich said. “We are all super competitive. But what’s great about the team we have now is, on Tuesdays and Fridays, our workouts have been incredibly competitive. The inner squad competition carries us because our workouts are so strong. We don’t need to race every weekend, we’re working to the same end goal.”

Ribich said the Wolves are approaching the weekend with the same energy and anticipation they had at the start of the season.

“We’re chomping at the bit like it’s our first race,” he said. “We’re ready to get the ball rolling.”

The men’s team could be a contender for the team title. The Wolves return every runner that competed at the GNAC championships in 2016, including Ribich, Dustin Nading, Tyler Jones, Josh Dempsey and Stephen Frey.

That depth makes the Wolves dangerous, but Ribich said the top of the conference is stacked.

“I think it’ll be a four-team battle on the men’s side,” Ribich said. “It’ll come down to the finish. The first 5 kilometers of the race is flat, then the last 3 kilometers are a little hilly.”

The women’s team, which features Kennedy Rufener, Olivia Woods and Megan Rose, among others, is also looking to make a splash.

“The girls are a top-four team for sure,” Ribich said. “The 6-kilometer distance is long enough for the endurance girls to do well and other girls like Olivia, Megan and Suzie (Van De Grift) can shine in the right opportunity because we know they can outkick anyone in the field.”

The Wolves have tailored their training schedule to be at their absolute best at the end of the season.

On Saturday, they’ll get a chance.


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