EUGENE — David Ribich has reached the 1,500-meter finals of the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials.
The former Enterprise High School and Western Oregon University standout placed fifth in his heat of the semifinals on Friday, June 25 at Hayward Field, posting a time of 3:38.75 to earn one of 12 spots to Sunday's final.
He'll race a field that includes 2016 Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz, who won the second heat on Friday. The group is vying for one of three coveted spots to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which begin next month.
The final race is set for 4:40 p.m. Sunday, and will be televised on NBC.
Ribich worked his way through the field Friday to earn fifth by outleaning Waleed Suliman, who finished in sixth with a time of 3:38.78. Ribich ended up being an automatic qualifier — which went to the top five finishers in each heat.
How close was the race? Ribich was 0.01 behind fourth-place finisher Vincent Ciattei, and just a shade behind heat winner Craig Engels, who broke the tape in 3:38.56.
Ribich settled into the back of the pack through the early stages of the race, and was 11th through the first 300 meters and ninth with two laps to go. He inched his way forward in the third lap, but was still eighth — and, at that time out of the running for the finals — going into the final lap. As the runners made their move — several racers led during the final lap — Ribich kept pace. He still was eighth with about 200 meters to go, then moved up to the cusp of the top five. He was bunched up next to Engels on the inside lane with about 100 to go. Engels broke free and moved to the front by the end. Ribich held his own, kicking to the finish where three runners, including Ribich, leaned at the line.
The heat was the fastest of the two on Friday. Centrowitz's winning time in the second heat was 3:42.96.
Ribich did what was needed to reach the semifinals in his first race at the Olympic trials on Thursday, taking third in his heat to automatically qualify for the next round.
The top six in each heat reached the semis, with the next six best times qualifying after that.
Ribich eased his way through the first two laps of the race in his heat, which was the first of the day. He settled in from the start in ninth out of the nine runners in his heat, and finished the first lap in ninth.
Ribich began to work his way up the ranks late in the second lap, taking to the outside and moving to fifth with two laps to go. He settled in at fourth during the early stages of lap three, then made his move with about 500 meters to go to first place. He held the lead throughout the final lap until the closing meters. Hobbs Kessler made a late surge and took the top spot in 3:45.63. The first heat Thursday was the slowest of the three, but also the most tightly contested. Only 1.02 seconds separated first place from ninth.