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GAC’s Ramon balances academic success with athletics

PREPARING TO PASS — Gustavus Adolphus College freshman runner Iliana Ramon (21) prepares to pass Macalester College rival Danielle Freshwaters (22) during the women’s 5K run at the 2019 MIAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Ramon continues to balance success on the track, in cross country and in the classroom during her days as a student-athlete at the St. Peter-based college. (Photo courtesy of Gustavus Adolphus College sports information)

ST. PETER — Iliana Ramon continues to maintain her smooth and steady stride on Gustavus Adolphus College’s varsity running surfaces, while also maintaining an honor-roll academic pace in the classroom heading into the final two-year backstretch of her Division III cross country and track & field careers.

“I’m on track to graduate on time with a degree in elementary education,” said Ramon, who earned academic scholarships to the St. Peter-based college, which does not award athletic scholarships per se. “I’m hoping to (eventually) teach kindergarten through third grade because I enjoy that age level. They (students) are much more adamant about listening to what teachers have to offer.”

Ironically, the four-time individual state cross country qualifer during her prolific prep career at Fairmont High School entered a new realm of learning of her own in closing out her sophomore academic year at Gustavus Adolphus two weeks ago.

“In high school, I took a couple of PSEO (postsecondary enrollment options) classes online, but most of my classes at Gustavus have centered around instructors giving lectures in the class room.

“Online learning is a lot more independent study, so it was a bit of an adjustment for me this spring.”

The member of Kappa Delta Pi — which is an international honor society in education — however, will remain diligent in her pursuit of achieving a third consecutive selection to the academic all-region cross country team for Gustavus in the upcoming fall.

From a training perspective, the Gusties’ junior-to-be long-distance extraordinaire has stayed in shape during the current two-and-a-half-month coronavirus pandemic by hitting the pavement for long runs in the country and some shorter jaunts on the streets of Fairmont.

“I’ve been going for longer runs between 9 and 11 miles so far. I haven’t hit 11 yet, but that’s my goal,” Ramon said with a laugh. “Our offseason conditioning program will start next week, and we’ll (the team) get a general overall workout plan for the summer.”

The still Fairmont school record-holder for the fastest time in the girls state cross country meet will look to incorporate her summer internship into her running regimen in two weeks.

“My internship is with the Mankato 4-H organization, and I’m in charge of creating lesson plans for the kids,” said Ramon, who played integral roles in guiding Fairmont to the 2016 Class A state cross country championship, in addition to third- and fifth-place showings in 2014 and 2017, respectively. “Normally, we’d teach them how to make projects for (county and state) fairs, but with our current situation (pandemic), they may have to make some adjustments to what we do.”

During the summer months, Ramon can only continue to train and wait to see whether Gustavus Adolphus will be “developing plans to deliver in-person, on-campus classes this fall if circumstances allow,” according to the college’s website.

Ramon will set her sights on bettering her personal-best time of 23:01.1 that she established on the 6K cross country course during the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse Invite last fall.

“I’d say training is the biggest difference between running cross country in high school and in college,” said Ramon. “In working with (Gustavus Adolphus head cross country coach) Brenden (Huber), he’s able to adapt training methods to fit your individual needs.

“Coming from Mr. (Bob) Bonk’s (high school cross country and track & field) programs, I was able to grasp the training concepts in college faster than some runners. Mr. Bonk’s training definitely gave me an advantage when I arrived here (Gustavus Adolphus).”

In fact, case in point, Ramon established her career-best 10K time of 39:00.86 during her first-ever competition in the long-distance track event at the 2019 MIAC Meet at the University of St. Thomas during her freshman — and only season to date due to the 2020 outdoor schedule being cancelled.

“We usually run 6Ks during the cross country season, while I run the 3K and 5K during the indoor track season before going to the 5K and 10K outdoors,” said Ramon, who has run a personal-best time of 10:39.22 in the 3K and an 18:17.26 during an indoor 5K.

So, which athletic endeavor does Ramon prefer?

“I can never decide. It depends on what season I’m in and it’s usually the one I’m competing in at that time,” Ramon said with a laugh. “It’s a 50-50 decision for me.”

Since Ramon does not listen to music because she “likes to be aware of everything going on around her in order to stay safe” during her training sessions, what motivates her during those many miles on the road?

“During actual races, I think about things my coaches have talked about, like keeping your opponents close and what strategic moves you need to make during the race,” said Ramon. “When I’m running by myself, I visualize about races I’ve run and it pushes me.”

Ramon’s goal to qualify for a national competition also is another factor that “sometimes gets (her) out the door” and continues her progress on her already successful academic and athletic treks at Gustavus Adolphus.

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