Coming down the final stretch, Madeline Perez wasn’t aware that her name was about to be etched in the record books.
In fact, it took the announcer’s voice counting down her time for the Glenbard West junior to realize what she had just accomplished.
Making her third appearance at the Class 3A state meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria, Perez became the first Hilltopper girl in program history to win a state title after coming through the chute in 16:02. That time was not only 13 seconds ahead of her closest competitor but also shattered the previous IHSA record (in any class) of 16:22, set in 2010.
Previously for Glenbard West, Farah Jardran had finished runner-up back in 2002 while Nell Shields was third in 1995. On the boys side, Ken Popejoy (1968) was the lone state champion.
“Every time I think about it, I get the biggest smile on my face,” Perez said. “I’m so excited right now and happy with how it turned out. I’m honored to be the first at my school, it’s a real exciting moment for me.”
The last 400-meters won’t soon be forgotten.
“It was amazing,” she said. “The crowd was so loud and their energy and the adrenaline that came from that was really awesome.”
And to think, for a time, Perez wondered if she would ever feel close to 100 percent again this fall.
Back in mid-September, shortly after competing in the Peoria-Notre Dame Invite, she came down with a sinus and upper-respiratory infection that threatened her performance.
“A lot of positive people around me kept me up,” Perez said, “and luckily, I came back at just the right time of the season. During the conference meet, I felt a lot better; that was a starting point. At the regional, I felt 100-percent back and every point after that, I felt great and really strong overall.”
Along for the ride was head coach Paul Hass.
“It was an amazing thing,” he said, “and it really was historic, she is the fastest girl ever. She is a fierce competitor on the course and the sweetest girl off of it. And I know how hard she works and how dedicated she is.”
Her treat to herself for winning a state title was one day off before resuming training. Perez will compete at both the Nike (Indiana) and Foot Locker (Wisconsin) Midwest regionals in November with berths in the national events on the line. Then it will be track season followed by her senior campaign where Perez will try to even out-do herself.
“It will be really exciting next year,” Perez said. “I’m really happy that I have another season to look forward to.”
Perez was not the only Hilltopper to put forth a special effort on Saturday. Five of her six teammates also set personal records as Glenbard West place third as a team with a score of 138.
Sophomore Lisa Luczak was sixth in 16:45, senior Emma Reifel came across in 51st (17:38), freshman Grace Rogers followed in 59th (17:44) and freshman Christina Sedall finished 78th in 17:55.
Rounding out the seven where Cynthia Mote in 105th and senior Kate Majewski in 143rd.
“Every single one ran so amazing at the meet,” Perez said.
The third-place trophy put a perfect capper on a memorable fall, which included titles at the Hornet/Red Devil Invite and 53-team Peoria-Notre Dame meet, a West Suburban Conference championship and the first sectional title in program history.
“It’s the best season that I’ve ever been a part of,” Hass added. “It is safe to say that this is the fastest team in Glenbard West history.”