MONMOUTH — Wednesday, June 13, David Ribich officially signed his contract to become a professional track and field athlete for Brooks Running Company.
“I’m officially with Brooks. It’s awesome, super cool,” Ribich said.
The road to get here has been 10 years in the making for Ribich, when he first discovered the world of track and field.
When he came to Western Oregon University, head Track and Field coach Mike Johnson said he saw the potential in Ribich, and has spent the last four years helping to mentor and train him. It would be easy to say Ribich is where is in part because of Johnson’s knowledge and training, but Johnson is quick to dismiss that.
“I think we share credit,” he said. “There’s a lot of credit to go around. You don’t get here by accident. You don’t run at a world class level by accident. A lot of things go into it: parents, coaches, situations, environment, support, training staff, a whole bunch of people share the credit, but the person that’s really responsible is the athlete. They’re the one that has to make that individual commitment that separates themselves from everybody else.”
Track and field is where Ribich is meant to be. Just in his senior year alone, Ribich collected a handful of accolades, including being a finalist for the Oregon Sports Award Ad Rutschman Small College Athlete of the Year, a repeat GNAC Track Athlete of the year, All-American honors, West Region Athlete of the year, and set an NCAA record for the 1,500. He also nabbed a sub-four minute mile at the University of Washington during his indoor track season. He’s already a decorated runner and he’s only just begun.
Deciding to sign with Brooks was a long process in which Ribich talked to companies like Nike, Oregon Track Club in Eugene and others in consideration for the next few years of his professional running career and his life.
“Ultimately, what I wanted to do was have conversations with everyone I possibly could before making an ultimate decision,” Ribich said. “The last six months have been a process of figuring out really what I valued and what I held true to where I see myself in the upcoming years.”
He toured Brooks in December and everything seemed to click into place.
“I ran with some of the guys, met with the coach, met with people in the company, and something I really valued and enjoyed was how connected everyone was,” Ribich said. “I felt this immediate click with some of the guys I was talking to; this is a group I can really see myself in.”
Brooks is a smaller company that specializes only in running, making it easier as an athlete to connect and establish solid relationships with everyone, Ribich said.
“You just get this personal relationship that these people in this company understand that you’re a human; you’re an athlete but you’re not a machine, and you have these emotions and feelings that need to be expressed through conversation,” he said.
On top of being an athlete for the company, Ribich will also take part in annual budget meetings, product testing and other facets of involvement.
“It seems more like an involved professional environment opposed to just that track and field scope, which is something I really valued,” Ribich said. “At the end of the day, as much as I don’t want it to happen, my competitive days will come to an end and I want to have a career path afterward, and I think Brooks does a good job with that.”
October 10th is when the official 2018-19 training year starts for Brooks, so in the meantime Ribich will continue training under Johnson through July, where he will compete in the USA Championships, with the possibility of doing a circuit in Europe after that. In August he said he will take time off to rest and spend time with family, find a place to live in Seattle, and then come back to Monmouth for preseason cross country training at WOU.
“And then (I’ll) get everything finalized and officially move to Seattle mid-September,” Ribich said. “That’s the plan. That’s that.”
But his plans don’t stop there. Ribich wants to use his professional athletic career as a platform for reaching out and encouraging younger athletes.
“I like to talk,” he said, laughing, “And what I hope to do is utilize my major and minor, communications and sports leadership, in my athletic career and use that as a public speaking platform. I really enjoy just being able to be present in the younger athletes’ lives, and if I can do that by speaking on a topic that they enjoy then that will be really cool.”
As a part of his contract with Brooks, Ribich will be able to offer his high school track team either a scholarship or a stipend for gear.
“I told my agent that I want to implement something for my high school,” he said. “Being such a small high school I wanna give them the opportunity to feel sponsored or appreciated for the efforts that they put in at a small school.”
Does he have a plan for the Olympics? Ribich chuckled at that question.
“Sights are set on 2020, 2024,” he said. “It’s a focus of mine and it’s a hard goal to talk about it,(but) it’s exciting that I’ve been given this opportunity to pursue a dream I know a lot of people have that aren’t given that opportunity.”
It isn’t every day that a professional runner comes out of a small town like Monmouth, and whichever direction Ribich goes in this new career path of his, Polk County will always remember him as a small-town boy who followed his dreams and made it.