GLEN ELLYN — Even after Madeline Perez set a new state record while capturing the Class 3A cross country title in November, her thoughts still didn’t switch to rest and relaxation.
Instead, the Glenbard West junior’s focus immediately shifted to the ensuing track season.
“I definitely couldn’t wait for track to start,” Perez said. “The minute cross country was over, I was already thinking about track.”
Courtesy of Perez’s cross country championship, along with being a state track qualifier in the 1,600-meter run and the 4 x 800 relay a year ago, one might think she entered this season with high expectations. But the unassuming and humble Perez doesn’t look at it that way.
“Every season, when you go into it, you don’t know what to expect,” she said. “That makes it exciting. I didn’t really put any expectations or pressure on myself. Just go out and see how it goes.”
Perez created headlines at the Illinois Top Times indoor meet by setting an event record in the 1,600 with a time of 4:53.60, which also happened to best her own personal record by six seconds.
“It was super exciting,” Perez said. “I knew going into the meet, I was feeling really fresh. And Illinois Wesleyan, where it was held, has a brand new track. I was really feeling good and I had a feeling it was going to be a fast day. I took it out hard and pushed the pace every lap. I was happy with how it ended up.”
In addition to the 1,600, Perez has also competed in the 3,200 in a select few meets along with running a leg of the 4 x 800. It’s still up in the air as to which events she will ultimately compete in once the state series begins.
As for potentially trying to pull off the 1,600-3,200 double, the junior said while it’s definitely a challenge, she believes she would be up for it.
“I’d say rest between the races is the biggest challenge,” Perez said. “When things are calming down (after the 3,200) and you are starting to relax, you’ve got to warm up again. At the meets where I have doubled, like at indoor conference and at Downers Grove North (April 12), it was only a little over an hour between those races.
“That’s really the biggest challenge but at the same time, I’ve learned over the years how to be prepared for it. I do really enjoy doing both. It is hard and challenging but afterwards, it’s just an amazing feeling. You feel very accomplished.”
One thing to keep an eye on is the friendly rivalry between Perez and York senior Emma Fisher. Having competed in numerous races against each other, both in track and cross country, Perez was actually bested by Fisher in the 1,600 at indoor conference and at Downers North by less than a second.
“We’ve really pushed each other to become the runners that we are,” Perez said. “It’s pretty cool. Being in such a strong conference to race in, it makes it more challenging but at the same time, I love it.”
The ultimate goal is to add a track state title to her cross country medal. But according to Perez, that is not the end all, be all.
“That would obviously be icing on the cake,” she said. “But I just want to get to state and do my best. I love the state meet, both in cross country and track. You know you’ve worked so hard to get there and it’s the last races and you just give it all you’ve got.”
In addition to her individuals pursuits, Perez is equally focused on the team aspect of the sport. Glenbard West is currently one of the top-ranked teams in the state.
“It’s already been a really, really exciting year,” said Perez, who expects to make her college decision in the summer. “I feel like every week, more girls are getting PRs and running so awesome. We’ve got a lot of underclassmen stepping up. We are a young team and it’s exciting to think about what’s still to come.”