WORTHINGTON -- In track and field, most successful hurdlers are taller than the average person. Obang Ojulu of Worthington High School is an exception to that rule.
Ojulu, who was listed at 5-8 on the 2017-18 WHS boys basketball roster, overcomes his lack of height with technique -- and explosion.
The style was impressively on display last Friday at the Section 2AA meet at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter when Ojulu, going all out in an attempt to qualify for the Minnesota state meet, set a new Trojan record with a second-place 39.61 time in the 300-meter hurdles. He literally wrecked the second hurdle on his way to gaining a state berth.
“It just went flying. And he was flying,” said WHS co-head coach Cory Smidt.
The record had been held by a former classmate of Obang’s, Gbrown Ochothow, who set it in 2015 at 39.96. Ochothow benefitted Ojulu’s attempts to become a better hurdler during his high school years -- a fact acknowledged by the new record-holder in a pre-sectional interview.
“There’s a lot of things that inspire me, but specifically for track, I think Gbrown Ochothow. He has the 300-meter record right now, and that’s kind of the one I’m chasing the most. He pretty much helped me out with everything -- my form, and what I needed to do to be good at the 300-meter hurdles,” Ojulu said.
Ojulu, who graduated from Worthington High School just a few days ago, has been a key performer in three sports during his prep career. His quickness was a big benefit to the boys basketball team, and his speed and aggressiveness paid off in football as a running back. In track and field, he was consistently outstanding this season in both the 110-meter high hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles.
The Globe interviewed Obang recently for an episode of The Drill, just when he was beginning to bear down on his biggest meets of the spring season. You can see the video online at www.dglobe.com. Here is a sample of the interview:
QUESTION: What are some of the keys to your success as a hurdler?
ANSWER: “I can’t run very well in the cold. Usually when the sun’s out, I usually show out. I think my speed is what makes up for my height. Because I’m so short, and everyone I go up against is six foot or taller, and it makes it really easy for them to get over the hurdles. … I kind of hit every one because I’m a little shorter, but my speed makes up for it.”
Q: Tell us some inside information on the secret to performing in the hurdles. What’s the most important thing to figure out?
A: “People starting out, it’s really difficult to hit it with the right leg consistently throughout the race. They sometimes alternate, or they can’t get three steps in between the hurdles. So I think that’s the more difficult part of it. And also, some people are afraid to even jump over the hurdles, so that will kind of mess you up, too.”