Glenbard West’s Madeline Perez returns to form at regional final

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It was a long time coming, but Glenbard West’s Madeline Perez is back in her Saturday routine.

The defending Class 3A state champ didn’t make her season debut till last week’s West Suburban Silver meet because of a calf injury. She finished second there to Hinsdale Central freshman Alexa Haff, but was back in her familiar spot at the head of the pack for Saturday’s Class 3A Fenwick Regional at Schiller Woods East Forest Preserve in Chicago.

Perez cruised to victory, covering the flat, three-mile course in 16 minutes, 54 seconds, 22 seconds ahead of teammate Lisa Luczak.

There are just two races left in her prep cross country career, next weekend’s Lake Park Sectional and the state finals on Nov. 9 in Peoria. But Perez still views this as a work in progress, thanks to her late start.

“I’m just going to work on building my last mile for sure,” she said. “I’m trying to view it in a positive way. But I guess … we’ll have to see, again take it one week at a time. My focus is to do my best with my team and see where that puts us.”

The Hilltoppers, who are ranked third in 3A by DyeStatIl.com, hope to wind up on the awards stand at state. Having Perez back to go along with Luczak, Lindsay Graham (who did not run Saturday), Grace Rogers (fourth, 17:41) and Janie Nabholz (sixth, 17:46) makes Glenbard West that much better positioned to make a run at a trophy.

And it makes Perez happy, just being able to do what she does so well.

“It was definitely tough,” she said of the layoff. “I love to race so it was killing me to sit on the sidelines. I had to watch my team be out there without me. I wanted so badly to be out there and contribute.”

Freshman Mary Blankmeier (seventh, 18:00) led Oak Park, while Olivia Ryan and Briana Daley finished 3-5 to pace third-place Fenwick (100). Those teams also qualified for the sectional along with York (106), Lake Park (120) and Glenbard East (129).

Top-ranked York coasted home to victory in the boys race, 20-77 over Glenbard West. The Dukes’ top four finishers — Kyle Mattes, Nathan Mroz, Matt Plowman and Alex Bashqawi — crossed the finish line together, all being timed in 15:04.

“We just wanted to stay together and make a move, separate ourselves, at least the top four for the end of the race, which we did,” Mroz said.

York was coming off a hard-fought 38-50 win over No. 2 Hinsdale Central at the WSC boys meet.

“Last week didn’t go how we wanted it to,” Mroz said. “We wanted to come here and prove something.”

They did, to York coach Joe Newton at least.

“We ran under control,” Newton said. “We ran together the whole race and we’ve been waiting for that. Now it’s starting to come. … I’m really pleased with the guys today. It’s coming together like we wanted it to. [But] still got to do it on the day [at state].”

Lake Park (91), Fenwick (107) and Oak Park (135) also advanced to the boys sectional. Paul Christian and Jack Billings finished 6-9 for Glenbard West, while Fenwick’s Salvatore Flight (fifth, 15:12) was the first non-York runner through the chute.

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