Glenbard West’s Madeline Perez in no rush to reach finish line

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When Madeline Perez went to her first preseason cross country workout at Glenbard West this year, she felt a little odd.

“At the beginning of the year, it was weird,” the senior said. “There was no one older than me.”

And probably no one faster, either.

This fall, Perez heads into the final lap of what is already one of the greatest careers in Illinois girls distance running. She won the distance triple crown last year: Class 3A cross country in a meet- and course-record 16 minutes, 2 seconds; and Class 3A 3,200 (10:22.29) and 1,600 (4:52.24).

The cross country mark at Detweiller Park in Peoria beat the old state record set in 2010 by Woodstock’s Kayla Beattie by 20 seconds.

What can Perez do for an encore? We may have to wait a bit to find out. She has yet to make her 2013 debut and it’s unclear when her first race of the season will be.

“I’ve learned to listen to what my body wants,” she said. “It’s a long season, I’m focused on the long term.”

So is Glenbard West coach Paul Hass, whose team is coming off a third-place finish in Class 3A.

“We’re taking it easy with her,” Hass said. “When she’s ready to race, she’ll race.”

And when that day comes, Hass is certain Perez will answer the bell.

“She works and works and she’s never satisfied,” he said. “That’s what makes her Madeline Perez. She is the most driven athlete I’ve ever coached and maybe ever will coach.”

Both Perez and Hass are aware that another title is no given, considering the depth of talent in the western suburbs in particular and the state in general.

Last fall, there were four runners from the West Suburban Silver alone in the top eight at Detweiller: Perez, teammate Lisa Luczak, runner-up Emma Fisher of York and Hinsdale Central’s Jill Hardies.

The last back-to-back big-school champ was Geneva’s Rebecca Mitchell in 1996-97.

“It’s not easy to repeat,” Hass said.

Perez appreciates the way her rivals’ exceptional performances have fueled her drive to repeat and to make a run at breaking 16 minutes.

“If it wasn’t for Kayla Beattie and Emma Fisher and [New Trier’s] Courtney Ackerman, I don’t know if I would have that goal in front of me,” she said.

Apart from gearing up for another trip downstate, Perez also is hoping to squeeze in three recruiting visits this fall. “I don’t want to do more during the season,” she said. “As it is, it’s so short.”

“We don’t really have a timetable,” Hass said of Perez’s return. “Obviously, by conference and state series. Anything before that is up in the air.”

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