Gophers look to Obleman for guidance

Ryan Schuster

Senior captain Rick Obleman hobbled across the finish line in 26 minutes, 12 seconds — well behind his usual pace.
There were no wild cheers from the crowd on that day in late September at the University’s Les Bolstad Golf Course. Obleman had just been passed by freshman teammate Chris Anderson at the finish line.
Minnesota won its previous two meets, with Obleman placing first on the team in both.
But, he finished a disappointing fifth on the team this time; and the Gophers placed 15th out of 19 schools.
“Something’s got to change,” Obleman said after the race, still bothered by the illness that slowed him down that day. “For some reason it just didn’t click.”
That was then, this is now.
It’s been three weeks since that race, and the team appears to be ready to atone for their sub-par performance the last time out.
“Our primary focus is just to really rest them this week and get the guys ready for a good race this week on Saturday,” Coach Steve Plasencia said.
The Gophers will need all of that rest because, from here on out, they will not have much more of it.
“I think the extra rest is going to help prepare us for the rest of the season,” said freshman runner Jeremy Polson. “Every weekend, from now on in, we’re going to have a meet. It’s going to be tough.”
After competing in the Iowa State Classic on Saturday in Ames, Iowa, Minnesota will be running both of the next two weekends.
If the team does well enough at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships on Nov. 2, they will move on to the NCAA regionals two weeks later.
After regionals, the NCAA Cross Country Championships will be held Nov. 25 in Tucson, Ariz., for the top two teams in each region and the recipients of six at-large bids.
Minnesota has a lot of work to do, however, before it starts thinking about the Big Tens, the regionals or the NCAAs.
This weekend should be a good measuring stick for how well the team will do the rest of the year.
Plasencia’s team will run against 11 other teams, including Big 12 teams like Iowa State and Kansas.
“I expect us to improve,” Plasencia said. “I’d like to finish in the top three or four.”
The Gophers started the season on fire, winning their first two meets in impressive fashion before falling apart at the Roy Griak Invitational. Now is the time for experienced runners like Obleman to step up and lead the team.
“It’s been a while since we raced,” Polson said. “We have to be healthy and Obleman has to be up there.”