Burnett runner one step closer to Olympic dream
A FORMER Nanango State High School student is one step closer to achieving his Olympic dream after settling in to his new life at Iona College in New York.
The 18-year-old was granted a full scholarship to compete in the college's cross country and track and field teams.
Matthew Rankin's running career started along the popular bushwalking trails in Blackbutt, and after years of dedication and hard work he is now training in one of the US's elite athletic programs.
It's been a huge change of scenery for Rankin, who said he had seen snow for the first time since the move.
"The weather is the biggest change, it's absolutely freezing over here," Rankin said.
"Most of the year the weather is perfect for running, and being surrounded by other runners with a similar desire and goal is a huge advantage I lacked at home.
"There is also a large variety of trails close by, so we are always changing up where we run, whereas I only had two different trails to run on by myself in Australia."
The Iona College cross country team is one of the strongest in the country, and secured their 29th consecutive Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title last year.
After taking out the Australian Schoolboys Cross Country Championships in 2018, Rankin said representing Australia had been a long-term goal.
"Reaching an Olympic level would be amazing - I definitely have my sights set on that," he said.
"There is a lot of work between now and then, but getting over here into a great running system and strong team will help me a lot.
"As of now, my main focus is to run some good times at big races to get my name out there.
"I believe the coaches, and ultimately the school, are able to set me up for that long-term Olympic goal."
Rankin and his coaches had made the decision for him to sit out from the current track period until March to give him time to settle in.
"So far I've really enjoyed it and the team have been very friendly and welcoming," Rankin said.
"They are some really nice guys to hang out with and that's probably the best thing I could have hoped for."
College classes officially start tomorrow and Rankin said he was excited to meet even more people on campus.