By Nick Giannandrea
Ismael Ramirez has his eyes on the prize.
That's why the College of the Sequoias sophomore was back out running just hours after capturing the Central Valley Conference individual men's cross country championship on Oct. 29.
Ramirez was headed to Texas the next day on a recruiting trip and knew he wouldn't be able to train.
So there was no time for the Redwood High product to waste celebrating his second straight conference title. Not when he's out to win a state championship and earn a scholarship to a four-year university.
"I didn't want to miss the extra mileage I could have been getting," Ramirez said. "I can't afford to miss out on any chances, especially after all the hard work I've put in."
It's that kind of dedication that has turned Ramirez into one of the state's top male runners, according to Giants coach David Sanchez. Ramirez will be the favorite during the Northern California Championships on Nov. 8 at Toro Park in Salinas.
"He's maturing," Sanchez said. "He's realizing his clock is ticking, so he's taking stuff more seriously and getting his runs in and prioritizing things right."
Ramirez earned his favorite status by winning the Toro Park Invitational - on the same course as the NorCal Championships - in 20:30.5 on Oct. 4. The Toro Park Invitational was dubbed the NorCal preview because it drew all the region's top runners.
"We cut our mileage this week to be more rested, and I feel really good," said Ramirez, who placed second in NorCal last season in 21:18.4. "I'm hoping to win it (individually) and hoping we win it as a team."
Ramirez doesn't just want to win the NorCal title, he'd like to break the Toro Park course record of 20:09.
"Last time I pretty much cruised it," Ramirez said. "If I go for it, I know I can get it."
But ultimately, Ramirez's goal is to reach the State Championship meet, set for Nov. 23 at Fresno's Woodward Park.
Last season, Ramirez was eight at the state meet in 20:39.3. He hopes to lower his time enough to challenge the COS record at Woodward Park of 20:10 set by Mario Macias in 2000.
"Ismael should win NorCal," Sanchez said. "When it comes to state, he should be top three. And if Ismael is ready to roll, and his vision is ready to go and everything lines up, he could be a state champ."
Following the state meet, Ramirez will turn his attention toward picking a four-year university. He visited West Texas A&M on Oct. 30 and has also drawn interest from Metro State, Chico State and Long Beach State.
"It's a little difficult deciding where to go, but I'm really excited about it," Ramirez said. "I've wanted to (earn a scholarship) ever since I started running in high school."
Ranked second in NorCal and No. 8 in the state, COS' men will also send Evan Loftin (El Diamante), Oscar Perez (Dinuba), Zachary Woods (Frontier-Bakersfield), Christian Gonzales (Corcoran), Luciano Linares (Exeter), Cristobal Vasquez (Corcoran), Victor Cisneros (Lindsay), Dominic Izquierdo (Hanford), Gerardo Dicochea (Redwood) and Angel Barajas-Galindo (Mt. Whitney) to the NorCal Championships.