PEORIA – For all the individual accomplishments and accolades that Madeline Perez has garnered over her prep career, nothing could top Saturday.
With four girls reaching all-state status, the Perez and her Hilltopper teammates captured the first cross country state title in program history by running away with the Class 3A event.
“This is the first time the girls have won [the Glenbard West boys won in 1960],” said Perez, a senior. “To be a part of the team that did it first is pretty special.
“Coming into the race, I was confident in the girls and thought we had a good chance. But I knew Naperville North was ready to go and they were not going to let us slide by; New Trier too. But everything fell into place and I couldn’t be more happy to help bring the title to Glenbard West.”
Perez, the defending Class 3A individual champion, finished in third place with a time of 17:03 in just her fourth race of the fall. Lisa Luczak was ninth in 17:14, Lindsay Graham placed 17th in 17:25, Grace Rogers came in 21st in 17:28 and Janie Nabholz rounded out the top-five in 45th place with a clocking of 17:58.
“I’m excited for the kids, they did a great job,” Glenbard West coach Paul Hass said. “It was a total team effort. It was our best team meet we had, one through seven. Not too many teams have had four all-staters in the girls history.”
Making the accomplishment even more special was the quality of the competition.
“Four of us [Glenbard West, Naperville North, New Trier and Palatine] were nationally ranked,” Hass said. “That has to be one of the toughest years in history for the team championship with four nationally ranked teams.”
Kathryn Kenwood and Megan Ozog also competed, placing 63rd and 74th respectively.
“It killed me not being out there with the team earlier in the season,” Perez said. “But I was really proud of how they held up and to be able to be back out there with them at the end was super special.
With six of their top seven runners returning in 2014, Glenbard West could be in a similar position next fall. But first, the Hilltoppers must say goodbye to Perez. In her four years, the squad went from ninth place at state to sixth to third and now first.
“We always inched closer,” Hass said. “It seemed like a natural progression. And she has been our leader for the last four years. There is only one Madeline Perez and I’m extremely fortunate and honored to have the ability to coach her and have her be a role model.
“She is essentially irreplaceable as an athlete. She is so driven and focused on doing things right and because of that, she made the program better. She is the most decorated distance running in Glenbard West history and as for the state, that history book is not closed yet, but she is definitely in the conversation.”
Glenbard West junior Paul Christian competed in the Class 3A boys race, finishing 47th in a time of 15:15.