Hunter Ramos never thought he’d be a runner.
Ramos, a senior at Franklin High School, was primarily a wrestler before his junior season. Hoping to stay in shape between wrestling seasons, he joined the Wildcats’ cross country team on a lark.
Now in his second varsity year on the team, Ramos is one of the top runners at Franklin and this week’s Elk Grove Athlete of the Week. In 2010, he led the Wildcats to the section finals despite a hip injury and was an all-league standout in the Delta Valley Conference. And Ramos hasn’t missed a beat this season, finishing fourth at the first DVC meet of the year.
While Ramos may have originally intended to improve his fitness for wrestling in the 112-pound class, cross country has become his primary focus. And his background in two very different sports has made him a more well-rounded athlete.
“He’s not afraid to be in pain and not afraid to go outside his comfort zone,” said Patrick Forbes, co-head coach for Franklin’s cross country team. “Those are things that can help you achieve things a normal runner can’t.”
And Ramos, whose shy persona and rail-thin frame mask a steely resolve, is not a normal runner.
After his hip injury last year derailed any chances at making the state finals in 2010, the senior committed his 2011 summer break to preparing for the upcoming cross country season. The Wildcats had scheduled practice four days a week, but Ramos spent extra hours training on his own.
The result? By summer’s end, he’d run a total of 600 miles.
“He’s really quiet and really focused,” said Forbes. “He has goals for himself and does all that he can do to achieve him.”
Elk Grove Patch recently spoke to Ramos and asked him more about becoming one of Franklin’s top runners in such a short time.
You started participating in cross country in order to shape up for wrestling. Did you ever expect that running would mean so much to you?
No, it was a really big shock. I’ve been wrestling since seventh grade and I only started running my sophomore year. I just thought I’d stay in shape for wrestling. I never thought I’d be competing as I am now.
Wrestling and cross country may strike some people as completely different sports—one requires violent physical contact for short bursts of time, while the other is often solitary and takes place over longer periods of time. How do you think both sports complement each other?
Cross country helps me with my leg strength for wrestling. When you’re on the bottom (during a wrestling match), it’s easier to stand up when you have a lot more strength in your legs. After cross country training, I had more energy and a lot more endurance than other kids in wrestling.
Running can be a grueling activity. How do you stay focused, and what’s going through your head during a race?
During a race, I try to concentrate on my pace sometimes and look around and see if I know any of the kids I’m running against and see if I can go faster. If I see a kid from a school that’s in the Delta Valley Conference, I’ll try to catch that kid.
People might think that running is only a matter of endurance, but technique is also important. How has your form improved since last year?
I used to run with my arms really tight and my elbows up. [The coaches] have form drills; we do them every single day to improve our form and just make it so it’s an instinct when you’re running. During races, I usually keep my head down; they’ve been telling me to keep my head up, and over time I just learned the form.
Last year, your chances of making the state finals suffered a blow after you injured your left hip in the sub-section meet. What did that experience teach you?
It just motivated me, and I’m really trying to do well this year. Last year, I was really disappointed and I wanted to improve my time and improve my place by a lot.
Some people go to the beach on their summer vacation. You ran a cumulative total of 600 miles this summer to train for cross country. If two years ago, someone had said you would run that much during summer break, how would you have reacted?
I would have told them that they were crazy. Before cross country, the most I’d ever run was six miles at a time. I would have told them that I would never have been able to do that. [Currently] I’m trying to keep on going longer and faster, trying to push and see what I can do, now that I’ve reached that 600 miles.
So when you’re not running, what are some of your hobbies?
I like to watch the San Francisco Giants—I’m a big Giants fans. Go to the movies and hang out with friends.
Besides wrestling and cross country, you also run track. In the classroom, you’ve maintained a 3.84 gpa. What are your plans for next year?
I’m not really sure yet, because I’m hoping to get a scholarship in cross country. I’m thinking of CSU Stanislaus, maybe UC Davis and maybe CSU Monterey Bay.