"I know hard work pays off"

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Ex-PVHS athlete Ramirez completes ACL comeback

By Steve Smith

 PUEBLO –This story starts at the end.

Former Prairie View multisport athlete RJ Ramirez won the 60-meter dash in 6.87 seconds at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference indoor track-and-field meet late last month. He also earned first-team, all-RMAC honors.

Ramirez, who is a sophomore at Colorado State Pueblo, almost didn’t make it to the track team, much less the podium. He’s had some stomach issues in 2017 that are under control. He also tore an ACL in 2016.

“It was a routine practice, and it was towards the end of practice. We were running a bit of team just going through plays and getting ready for the game that weekend,” Ramirez said. “I made a cut to try and avoid a defender and felt my knee hyperextended and that was it. Next thing I knew, both football and track weren’t happening that year.”

But physical therapy did. And a lot of it.

“The rehab was long. It was pretty much every day for about eight months to a year,” Ramirez said. “And it consisted of re-strengthening the muscles, getting range of motion back, reconnecting that that mind to body portion and gaining that confidence back. It was the longest eight months of my life.”

Ramirez also took a break from school. He helped coach the Fort Lupton Bluedevils football team while he was away.

“When I left Pueblo, I had decided that it was more beneficial for me to save my body and mind,” Ramirez said. “Going home and making the decision to make some money and get started on a career was just my mindset. I was confident in the future that I had waiting for me.  At the time, I felt I’d rather work than continue to put myself through the stress of school and put my body through what collegiate sports does to you. 

“So you could say I left partially because of injuries and it was definitely a momentum swing,” Ramirez added. “However it was not the deciding factor entirely as I missed my family tremendously.”

Ramirez said he entertained thoughts that more effort may not be worth it.

“When I was struggling the hardest, I’ve definitely had thoughts like that run through my mind. But I never thought that anybody was trying to tell me anything. I just felt like the timing led to the decisions that I made rather than the emotions or anything spiritual, I guess,” he said. “I just knew that I was over hurting. I was over rehab. I just wanted to train and I wanted to compete.

“An ACL tear is something that you have to have patience for and I just don’t think at the time I had the patience or the confidence to want to try and make it back,” he added, “not to mention from then on I was basically just a student, which was really hard for me because I don’t enjoy school and being able to compete really makes school feel worth it to me.”

He drew support from friends, family members and “even people I’ve never met” who told him he’d made a mistake by leaving sports and that he should have stuck with it.

“But one thing that I I’m good about is making decisions off of how I feel and what I feel is best for me in that situation,” Ramirez said. “With that said, no one in particular was able to tell me to stick with it because they knew at the end of the day, I was going to do what made me happy. The only other person that’s as competitive and alike me would have to be my dad. He just believed in my potential to a point that he couldn’t stop saying it, that I should go back. 

“’You don’t want to have any regrets.’ So he was very intense and excited for me to continue to hang on to this dream of mine,” Ramirez added. “Again, both my parents and all my family were very understanding about my decision. They were just more excited when I made the decision to come back, obviously.”

His first race on the track this winter turned into a personal record in the 60-yard dash.

“Every week from the first week until conference (meet), It seemed like I was setting a new PR in one or the other event, almost as if It was alternating. One week, I’d PR in the 200 then the next week I would PR in the 60 until I set my indoor mark for the season at conference, which was a 6.87 in the 60-neter dash and a converted time of 22.05 in the 200-meter dash. I fully thought I was capable of hitting a provisional mark. I knew I just had to be patient and continue working hard.”

Ramirez has no athletic restrictions, nor does he entertain thoughts that an ACL tear could happen again.

“I always am mindful of the fact that I tore my ACL, but I never think or try to put the idea that it can happen again into reality,” Ramirez said. “Instead, I do everything in my power to keep my body healthy and do things I wasn’t doing prior to tearing my ACL, like treatment. Learning and just trying to keep myself in the best shape possible for my coach and for my team is the main focus. I understand, now, that at this level without maintenance, you’re sure to fail. I feel preparing yourself is 90 percent of college track and that’s preparing mentally and physically. 

“I never ever step on the track without the intentions of ‘death and destruction’ as my coach says,” Ramirez joked. “I’m here to be the best, and I know my coach can get me there, so long as I do everything he says. When I train, I’m never afraid to push myself to pure agony. I understand that the pain and all of the terrible things that you feel while training hard just means I’m getting better. I’m not afraid to puke, I’m not afraid of passing out or feeling the pain because I know how good it feels to stand on top of a podium.”

Ramirez’ future plans are to train to become the best sprinter in the conference. 

“I know hard work pays off,” he said.