ELKHART — Nathan Dibley believes in the journey.
From not wrestling till the eighth grade to becoming a semistate qualifier as a senior. From a time of 19:18 and a sectional finish of 56th as a freshman, to 16:15 and a second place finish at regional his final year.
Even the journey of running at least a mile for 808 straight days, which stopped only when a doctor told him he had a stress fracture in his leg.
Dibley's journey has helped him earn the The 2019 Bringle Award, as the Elkhart Central senior will see his name on the impressive list of winners.
The Bringle, which has honored the top senior male student-athlete in Elkhart Community Schools since 1947, is selected by a committee in concert with the ECS.
Dibley won 11 letters in his career at Central, missing only as a freshman wrestler. He has a weighted GPA of 3.77, which ranks him 73 in a class of 361. He's been named the Student of the Year in Engineering & Technology, won the senior Art Student Award. He's also been on the Student Athletic Council for four years and the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council.
Nathan is the brother of Amanda Dibley, who won ECS' Wolf Award in 2015. His younger sister Lauren will be a senior next fall at Central and is a top cross country and track star.
Speaking of running ...
Dibley's running routine has become legendary at Central. He would run at least a mile every day – rain, snow, heat, polar vortex – even in the midst of his wrestling season.
"Nate ran every day in order to train for the upcoming track season,'' Central wrestling coach Zach Whickcar said. "No matter what the weather, he was back knocking on the wrestling room door ready for practice by 3 p.m. That took exceptional self-determination and devotion, especially for a 17-year-old.''
"Nathan has no off-season,'' former Elkhart Central track coach Jake Balch added. "During the winter, he goes straight from the classroom to the snow to get his daily miles in. After running, he peels off all the layers and goes straight to wrestling practice. I have never coached an athlete with a work ethic that rivals Nate's.''
For Dibley, running in all the different kinds of weather that northern Indiana can throw at you is a challenge he's more than happy to accept.
"Honestly, it's exciting to go out and run in the hard weather,'' Dibley said. "To me, the rougher the weather, the cooler the accomplishment when I was done. That's just how I looked at it.''
Dibley's consecutive-day run came to the end at the worst possible time, between the sectional and regional of his senior track season.
"My leg had been bothering me, but I decided to run in sectional,'' Dibley said. "I didn't run the day after sectional, ending my streak, and when I went to the doctor, they found the moderate stress fracture in my lower leg. I may have been able to run at the regional, but I hadn't been training like I should have and I didn't want to run a bad race for my 4x800 team, so I decided not to run.
"Plus, it's possible I could have made things worse if it would have taken longer to recover before next fall.''
Dibley was a three-time state qualifier in track, reaching Bloomington in both the 1,600 and 3,200 as a junior. He also helped lead the Blue Blazers to a regional championship as a junior, while earning MVP honors in distance running as both a sophomore and junior. He was a team captain for Central this spring.
In cross country, Dibley was a three-time MVP and team captain. He was a regional qualifier three times and finished as the runner-up as a senior in both the sectional and regional. He finished 18th at the semistate last October, just missing a spot at the state finals.
All that after finishing 56th at the sectional as a freshman.
"Nathan has big goals and does the work to achieve them,'' Central cross country coach Bekah Shenk said. "I started coaching him his sophomore year and through consistent hard work, he began to turn his slightly-above-average running talent into an extremely successful high school career. Looking back, it is amazing to see what he has accomplished from where he started.''
"I think there were a lot of factors for getting better in both cross country and track,'' Dibley said. "I had the right coaches and they had the right plan for me and I was willing to follow it. I think they believed in me and just let me go out and do it.''
While running came naturally to Dibley, wrestling was another story. He actually didn't join until being cut from the basketball team in the eighth grade and only then so he could earn his six-sport award at Pierre Moran.
"I always wanted to try every sport because I didn't want to say I didn't like it if I never tried,'' Dibley said. "The coach asked me in seventh grade to go out for wrestling, but I thought it was weird so I didn't. But since it was the only way I could earn six letters, I decided to try it and I wasn't real good, but I wasn't terrible either. When I got to high school, coach Whickcar talked to me and told me I was going out. Since it was a good way to stay in shape, I did.''
Dibley would finish his wrestling career with 47 career wins, earning all-conference honors as a senior, and was first-team Academic All-State. He was a sectional runner-up and finished third in the regional his senior year.
The son of Steve and Rochelle Dibley, Nathan plans to attend North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, beginning this fall, to run track and cross country. He is planning to major in business and finance.
TIM BRINGLE AWARD
2018 – Nolan Grose (Memorial). 2017 – David Eli (Memorial). 2016 – Jon Bailey (Memorial). 2015 – Treyton Harris (Central). 2014 – Tieshawn Johnson (Memorial). 2013 – Matt Eppers (Central). 2012 – Urston Smith (Memorial). 2011 – Mason Braden (Central). 2010 – Zack Corpe (Memorial). 2009 – Korey Carpenter (Central) & Robert FitzSimmons (Memorial). 2008 – Josh Robinson (Central). 2007 – Nathan Palmer (Central). 2006 – Ben Battjes (Memorial). 2005 – Nick Corpe (Memorial). 2004 – Marcus Perez (Central). 2003 – Jerimy Robinson (Central). 2002 – Kyle Sears (Memorial).