Gophers men’s CC runners finish seventh at Big Tens

Ryan Schuster

Many people consider seven to be a lucky number. Those people, however, do not include Minnesota’s men’s cross country team.
The Gophers harriers ran to a seventh-place finish Saturday morning at the injury-plagued Big Ten Cross Country Championships in Bloomington, Ind. Minnesota was led by senior team captain Rick Obleman’s seventh overall placing.
Obleman toured the 8-kilometer course in 25 minutes, 13 seconds, less than 24 seconds behind first-place finisher John Mortimer of Michigan. The time was a career best for Obleman, an improvement of almost 40 seconds over last year’s conference meet in which he placed 25th.
“I felt great,” Obleman said. “It was fun. That’s the best performance I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
A native of Regina, Saskatchewan, Obleman clearly returned to his dominant early season form. He took top individual honors for Minnesota in five of the six meets in which he competed this year.
Despite Obleman’s strong showing, the Big Ten meet was somewhat of a disappointment to the team, who hoped for an upper-division finish.
Wisconsin won the invitational for the third-straight year, and Michigan followed close behind in second. Michigan’s top five and Wisconsin’s top seven runners placed ahead of Minnesota’s number two runner, sophomore Todd Landgraff who finished 34th in 25:55.
Junior Tony Riter and sophomore Charles McClure rounded out the team’s upper echelon of runners in 47th and 51st place respectively.
The rest of Minnesota’s team ran in a tight pack, positioning five Gophers athletes in a 13-man group from 62nd to 74th place. Mike Stoick, Ron Hoffner, Jeremy Polson, Chris Anderson and Allen Broderius capped off the team’s scoring on Saturday.
Several runners also came up lame for Minnesota, adding injuries to insult. Polson suffered from a large blood blister on his right foot, partially caused by the new pair of shoes he was forced to wear after his old ones wore out. McClure was cut deeply when an opponent accidentally spiked him, cutting his Achilles tendon and forcing him to receive six stitches.
The race was so much of a battle that one runner actually threw a punch at another athlete. Most of the violence was less severe, however, being confined to pushing and shoving around the sharp curves of the hilly course.
There were some positives that could be drawn from Saturday’s run, though.
“We took a team last year that was ninth at Big Tens,” Gophers coach Steve Plasencia said. “You don’t turn it all around in one year. We’re going to keep going from here.”
In addition, all of the five runners who competed at last season’s Big Tens improved their times from a year ago. Freshmen Polson, Anderson and Stoick and sophomore Charles McClure competed at the Big Tens for the first time.
Although the number seven was unlucky for the Gophers this year, the team will return eight of its top nine runners next season. If Minnesota continues getting better at its current pace, the team hopes next year five will be its lucky number.