MONMOUTH — If you watch David Ribich and Dustin Nading, mid-distance runners on Western Oregon’s Track and Field team, interact with one another off the track, you would never know that they both nabbed national championship and All-American titles this past indoor track season; they’re guys who like to poke fun at each other and set up Dungeons and Dragons campaigns with their friends.
They’re typical college guys — until they get on the track and stand at the start line, waiting for that crack of the gun. It is then that they transform into serious, competitive athletes who want, simply, to win.
Before running, Nading was a wrestler in his hometown of Stevenson, Wash. Running was something he tried out his freshman year of high school to experience something different, and it wasn’t long before he was hooked on it, before it became a passion of his.
“I enjoy the training, I enjoy the team atmosphere. It’s a good dynamic,” Nading said.
In the NCAA DII indoor championships, which took place March 9 and 10 in Pittsburg, Kan., Nading took first place in the mile, with a time of 4:13.30, following back-to-back national titles as a member of WOU’s distance medley relay team.
Coming back from Pittsburg, Nading jumped right into training for his outdoor season without so much as a pause.
“I wanna run fast; I’m excited to take a lot of guys to nationals and see what we can do as a team,” he said.
As a team. That’s the ticket, right there: A tight-knit atmosphere where everyone supports everyone else, and WOU’s track team seems to embody that — which is what Nading attributes to his success in staying motivated.
“Usually it’s not too difficult,” he said, “and I’d say most of that is due to the team atmosphere, you know, on a day-to-day basis, I’m just around people who are as motivated as me. And on the days where I’m not as motivated, it just kinda seeps from them to you. You do it for them as much as you do it for (you).”
Evidenced by his intense dedication to the sport, to the hours he spends training on and off the track, running isn’t just a hobby for Nading; it isn’t something he does just for fun. Running is his whole life.
“I try to picture my life without it, and I go, I just really can’t see myself not running or not competing,” he said.
On top of running 70-80 miles a week, Nading spends hours training and stretching, making sure his body is ready to do what he asks of it, which is, most often, incredibly taxing.
It pays off.
This past weekend at the San Francisco Distance Carnival, he ran a personal best of 3:45.91, ranking second in the race and fourth overall in the NCAA DII. He’s on fire and his goal is to keep getting better.
When he looks past his collegiate career, Nading says he would love to run professionally, and get his doctorate degree in physical therapy. Whichever path he chooses, running will be in it.
Ribich is just as dedicated an athlete as Nading.
Originally from Enterprise, Ribich began running in seventh grade — not because it was his first choice, but because his parents weren’t keen on him playing football, he said, since he was smaller for his age and “could be picked up by a gust of wind.” So running it was.
Ten seasons of running later, and it’s clear Ribich made the right choice in becoming a runner. He took third place overall in the NCAA DII indoor championships, with a final time of 8:01.55 in the 3,000 meters, and a preliminary time of 7:50.81, which was a DII national record.
Additionally, earlier in the indoor season, Ribich shattered his own record for the mile, with a time of 3:58.88 — becoming the 501st American to run a mile under four minutes.
“I ended up qualifying the distance medley relay for nationals and the next day, ran 3:58 in the mile. It was just exciting to be able to do it in a Western Oregon uniform especially, because it was something that WOU track head coach Mike Johnson and I’ve talked about for a couple years now, and he just said the time will be right.”
And on Jan. 27, a month after Ribich’s birthday, that time came, he said.
After indoor season ended, the senior said he was wrecked, and took some time off to recover and get his body ready for another outdoor season.
“I’m excited to experience this last season with the whole group of guys, and it’s kinda weird to say that, that it’s my last collegiate season.”
He seems determined to end his college career with a bang. Over the weekend in Stanford, Ribich set a career best in the 800, crossing the finish line at 1:48.09 and placing second overall.
Like Nading, Ribich doesn’t view running as something fun to do. It’s what he’s invested much of his life in.
“I don’t know what else I would do. It’s a life metaphor; that’s all running is. Just the community too. I get to wake up and do the thing I love with all the guys and girls I love. Running is the easy part.”
As much as running is intrinsic for Ribich, the encouragement he’s received this year from people around the country via social media have been a huge factor in helping him stay motivated.
“I qualified for the USA championships this summer, and began getting messages from people all over the place,” he said. These messages were from people who were inspired by him, from people who wanted to see him succeed, encouraging him. “Well,” Ribich said, “this is why I do it, because you’re changing more lives than you think.”
While Ribich’s future inches closer, he says he tries hard to stay in the present, to focus on what needs to get done right now.
“I’m stressed about (the future) but I’m also content and confident that the decision’s gonna be made thoughtfully and I’ll be happy with it,” he said.
His future involves running — hopefully professionally, he said, with the Olypmics on his sights, as well.
“I ran 3:39 in the 1,500, this last June; the Olympic A standard is 3:36,” he said. “Of course, the Olympics is obviously a huge goal, but just being able to have the longevity of a career is important. I think the hard part now is staying consistent, staying composed.”
WOU’s track team runs this Friday in Monmouth at the John Knight Twilight event.