ENTERPRISE — David Ribich is set to make a run for the 2021 Olympics.
The former Enterprise High School and Western Oregon University standout will compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials inside Eugene’s Hayward Field, vying to earn one of three spots in the men’s 1,500-meter run to the Summer Olympic Games, which start next month in Tokyo.
The trials started June 18 and run through June 27. Ribich takes to the track for the first time Thursday, June 24 in the first round of the 1,500.
Competing in the trials has been a lifelong goal for Ribich, and he knows garnering one of those coveted top three spots will be a challenge.
“It’s going to be one of the hardest teams to make for Tokyo,” he said, speaking of a field that includes Matthew Centrowitz, the reigning Olympic champion in the 1,500. “Going into that race, it’ll be a tall order.”
Ribich enters the trials as an underdog, and as such, feels no pressure.
“I approach it just like that,” he said of the dark horse role. “Try not to make it a bigger deal than it is. … Taking it one moment at a time and letting myself be present in that race is what it’s about.”
He is ranked 28th out of 30 competitors in the 1,500 with a qualifying time of 3:37.44. He said, though, that time was from June 2019, and that since, he has been keeping up with some of the top-seeded runners in the race, including his Brooks Beasts Track Club teammate Henry Wynne.
“I’ve been working closely with him the last four months,” Ribich said of Wynne.
Wynne has the third-best qualifying time at 3:34.08, and Ribich said in training, “We’re not separated by more than a few decimals.”
Centrowitz has the top qualifying time at 3:32.81. His winning time in 2016 was 3:50.00.
Competitors will have to make it through two rounds of the race just to reach the 1,500 final. The semifinal race is June 25, and the final is June 27. Of the 30 initial runners, 24 will reach the semifinals, but the field will be cut in half to 12 for the final race.
“First round is pretty much stay clear of contact (with other runners),” he said, calling the semifinal race much more “cutthroat.”
He also plans to adopt a game plan that allowed him to run a personal best in the 5,000 at the Portland Track Festival last month and come within about a second of reaching the trials in that race.
“I’ve had race plans going into races, and more often than not I’ve failed them,” he said. “My race plan (last month) was to run through the race and respond on instinct.”
He said he won’t be trailing any specific runners, but instead will be looking for a key moment in the race — maybe “an opening or gap that needs to be filled, or a moment where it’s time for me to take the lead.”
“If I can be on in that moment, I think I could have a pretty deadly maneuver to put myself in position,” he said, saying he needs to be hunting for that opportunity.
Ribich said it is “tough to say” what impact the coronavirus pandemic had on his training. On one hand, he was reaching a spike in his training program where most athletes under his coach take off. On the other hand, the shutdown enabled him to focus on his health. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection done on his Achilles tendon to help heal some damage from wear-and-tear. For a while after he wasn’t running, and instead spent more time working on an elliptical or swimming. He added the year was “needed.”
“I’ve never felt more like myself, and never felt more confident,” he said.
And while he may be an underdog, he is optimistic of his chances to run for a spot in Tokyo.
“My coaches, myself and my family believe that is a possibility,” he said.