What Did The Division II Experience Mean To Me? (An Essay by David Ribich)
David Ribich is one of the best stories to come out of the NCAA track and field scene in the past two years. He was a guest on the CITIUS MAG Podcast just a few weeks ago. We received some great feedback on his episode so when he submitted a piece about his experience at the Division II level, it was a no-brainer that we needed to share it with the rest of the CITIUS MAG community. David is one of the biggest supporters of what we do and wanted to relay his stories while also intertwining insight from other NCAA Division II stars.
You can catch the podcast episode with Ribich here…
Here are his thoughts…
I’d like to start by listing things that are fast: Cheetahs, Noah Lyles and collegiate eligibility. As a collegiate athlete you will look back at those years and think how did that happen so fast? You blink and it’s over. I am sure every post-collegiate athlete agrees. The seasons, especially during a senior year campaign, transpire in a rapid succession and before you know it you’re putting on your university kit for a final time.
Division I, II, III and NAIA are so often compared by their differences its bothersome, so why not highlight the divisions by their similarities. All divisions are avenues for success. Athletes wake up, some hit the snooze more than others, but we all get up. We stand up, shakeout the legs as we look in mirror and prepare for the day. We all sweat, dream, and triumph. At times we all fall short, have a bad day, or get knocked down. But we all get up.
Dreams do not care about the differences made by divisions, dreams burn hotter than hell at times no matter where you are. Standing on the starting line you will see different uniforms, at times there can be DI, DII, DIII, NAIA, and JC all in the same race. Every athlete on the line hears the same commands, “runners on your mark.” What matters most in that moment is the person inside those singlets, not the singlets themselves.
“The division II experience is the epitome of more than a sport. DII has shown me we are valued for more than just our athletic talents. We are also valued for our commitment in the classroom, how we develop as a person throughout our college journey, and the camaraderie we build with our fellow athletes and coaches. It doesn’t matter what school you come from, or what sport you play, we have a very special connection. Here it is remembered that champions/championships come and go, but the impacts we’ve made as a division II community are what’s truly going to be remembered.” ~2018 100m hurdle DII National Champion, Janelle Perry, Ursuline College, 13.23
In division II the old motto used to be “I chose Division II.” After some time that motto was changed to the current motto of “Make it Yours”. The new motto speaks far more truth, making it yours goes beyond Division II. It has relevance in anything and everything we do as we make it ours, we must own it, and become it. Our experiences are intertwined by our outlook and motivation. By going to a DII school, I was given time to develop and become my own persona. My identity was forged far beyond being just an athlete, I had the opportunity to be on an elevated platform that gave me the chance to develop and succeed.
“What the Division II experience means to me is that you can progress into becoming a great athlete no matter what division you are in. Tthe only difference that I see between divisions is what you get from the school. Whether that be the facilities and gear, you are putting in the same work as every other athlete. The times show for themselves more than what school you go to or what division you are in. ~4x 400m DII National Champion, Myles Pringle, Ashland University, 45.53
Times are times, fast is fast, and it does not matter where, it matters who. Division II offers opportunity for improvement at your own pace. For many of these athletes their success in track and field has been an exponential growth throughout their career. As a non-Division I athlete, it is not like you are racing in the boondocks where no one can see, a lot of the times you are at the same meets as everyone else. You toe the line throughout the season with the best collegians from every division, but once its time for the championship season you focus back dial back into your division and focus on taking care of business.
“I believe that being NCAA Division II athlete is an incredible experience where you have to balance many things at once. It also makes you appreciate every opportunity you are given. Every scored or lost point matters, every second matters. In this competitive world there is also a feeling of being part of a community in DII where everyone knows each other, where everyone supports and cheers for each other. That is what DII experience means to me.” ~8x NCAA DII Champion, 3000m steeple DII Record Holder, Alicja Konieczek, Western State University, 9:47.72
As an athlete the relationships that transpire through sport help carry your successes into the future. It is important to have successes in your sport, but it is also important to develop relationships. Developing as an athlete means developing physically, mentally and socially as a person. The platform you are given as an athlete is apparent in today’s society, what you do with that platform speaks volume to the future generation of athletes.
“Running in Division II means a lot to me in many aspects…it allows me to do what I love most which is run track and compete against other quality athletes who also love doing the same thing. It also offers a chance to develop as an athlete and person…DII has given me an outlet to truly express how I feel about the sport, it has presented a platform for me to show other people what they can do in the same situation. It is about giving many opportunities that you wouldn’t really find anywhere else…most importantly it’s fun!”- 2x NCAA DII 800m Champion, Thomas Staines, Colorado State University Pueblo, 1:45.57
The most important aspect of sports should be HAVING FUN. Enjoying the sport is incredibly important and having fun is one way to do that. Surrounding yourself by like-minded people goes a long way, some of the greatest memories I have in my time as collegiate athlete come from experiences off the track with my teammates and friends. Time flies when you’re having fun and my collegiate career is a testament to that. My career flew by faster than others, as I raced in uniform from Freshman to senior year Cross Country, Indoor, Outdoor for four years straight, 12/12 for seasons. My eligibility may have expired in the fastest way possible, but I accomplished my degree in the process. I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Communication with a minor in Sport Leadership. This was made possible by the small division II school I chose, Western Oregon University. My greatest accomplishment in college is receiving honor cords and earning a 4.0 spring of 2017. These four years I have been incredibly blessed to be surrounded by a community of dreams that dare to achieve. I am sure all these athletes quoted can express the same blessing. As athletes no matter the division we have this dream in our head of what we can accomplish, no division can take that dream away.
Dreams are greater than Division.