Obleman follows family trail for U

Allison Younge

Gophers senior distance runner Rick Obleman had no problem explaining where he acquired his knack for competitive running — it was natural. His mother, father and grandmother were all aspiring sprinters in their day.
“I’ve seen some articles about my grandma from 19-0-whatever. She won every meet she ran,” Obleman said. “It was kind of neat, but then I got the distance part of it, so I don’t know where that came in.”
Obleman has followed his family’s trend to impressive heights. In his featured event, the steeplechase, Obleman holds position among the top 20 runners in the nation.
Since beginning training for the steeplechase (a 3,000-meter race that involves jumping over barriers and water pits) during the spring of his sophomore year with the Gophers, the event has become his favorite.
Obleman provisionally qualified for the NCAA championships on April 12th at the Sea Rays Relays in Knoxville, Tenn. He clocked an 8:52.49, reaching provisional standards and finishing third among his competition at the meet.
Gophers men’s cross country coach Steve Plasencia recognizes Obleman’s natural athletic ability, but thinks his greatest strength lies in his relentless work ethic. Obleman has competed for three years in the demanding indoor and outdoor track seasons during the winter and spring, and he ran four years for the cross country team in the fall.
“He competes from the day school begins to the end of the year,” Plasencia said. “It’s obvious that he loves to run; it’s too much of a time commitment not to love it.”
Competitive sports have always played a major role in Obleman’s life. He was a five-star athlete at Robert Usher Collegiate in Saskatchewan, Canada, competing in football, hockey, wrestling, baseball and track. As a junior in high school, he reluctantly decided to specialize.
“My coach sat me down and said, `Listen. If you want to continue, you should consider quitting those other sports and concentrating on track.'” Obleman said. “It wasn’t fun, but it worked out for the best.”
The transition from high school to college was an intimidating experience for Obleman, who was accustomed to the simple life of Regina. Motivated by the desire to earn an identity in track, Obleman undertook an individual mission.
“You leave your high school where you were king of the road, and all of a sudden you’re just a little freshman. The challenge is to make a name for yourself. I think it’s a driving force in everyone.”
After proving himself through four solid years with the Gophers, Obleman almost gushes about his time at Minnesota.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Obleman said. “Nothing compares to the experience that I’ve had, the people I’ve met and the friendships I’ve made.”
With one year of track eligibility remaining, Obleman hopes for continued improvement in the steeplechase. He enters the Big Ten championships this weekend hoping to finish among the top three competitors and clock an NCAA automatic qualifying time.
If Obleman runs as well as he did in the 1,500 last weekend at the Minnesota Last Chance Meet, he will be tough to beat. Clocking his personal best time in the race, Obleman passed five runners in the final 300 meters to clinch first place.
“You need to know your competition,” Obleman said. “They went out too hard, I knew they would have to drop back at some point. Sometimes it works out if you play it smart and just wait — patience is a virtue in track.”
This year, Obleman hopes that same patience will reap a Big Ten steeplechase title. In any case, there is no doubt that this member of the Obleman track legacy already considers his career at Minnesota a success.