CHARLESTON -- Madeline Perez has more than laid the groundwork for an extraordinary conclusion to her record-breaking junior season.
After setting a new benchmark in Peoria last fall in capturing the largest-class state cross country championship, the Glenbard West superstar is on the cusp of running immortality on the track-and-field circuit this spring.
On the opening day of the Class 3A meet Friday at Eastern Illinois University, Perez once again showcased her drive and athleticism.
Already the top seed at 3,200 meters by more than 13 seconds, Perez dominated her heat of the 1,600 run.
Opening an insurmountable lead by the 800-meter mark, Perez threatened the state record before settling for a seven-second-plus win in the event at 4 minutes, 52.21 seconds.
Eight competitors broke the five-minute barrier in the event as Perez turned in the top time in the preliminaries by more than three seconds.
The Hilltoppers' standout goes for the 1,600-3,200 double today against a supremely rich field in both events.
"I wanted to push myself to the end," Perez said. "I wasn't thinking about (the record at 1,600 meters). State is all about place. I didn't go all out (on the final 400 meters, but) I didn't necessarily back off."
Purdue-bound Wheaton Warrenville South senior Hope Schmelzle has her own storied pedigree after being a central cog in the Tigers' state-record 3,200 relay team last spring.
The Tigers' four-year standout is a top seed in both long events as well today after missing her personal record by a second in the same heat as the nationally ranked Hilltopper.
"(Perez) is incredible," Schmelzle said. "She establishes herself so early in the race. She goes out there and make her presence known immediately."
West Suburban Silver rival Emma Fisher is not only the second seed at 3,200 meters; the York senior, bound for Stanford, ran the 1,600 run in 4:56 to earn inclusion in the finals.
"That mile (final) is going to be crazy fast," Glenbard West coach Kelly Hass said. "We're not stupid to think that there aren't going to be a mess of kids gunning against (Perez). Madeline ran a great race today."
Perez nearly broke 16 minutes in setting the state record on the 3-mile layout last fall in winning the cross country championship.
Perez has no illusions about what she faces in her historic quest -- no one has accomplished the feat in the largest-class division since expansion five years ago.
"I'm going to sleep well and eat right," Perez said of her preparation.
Perez ran the anchor leg on the Hilltoppers' 3,200 relay last year; the Glenbard West quartet ran the third-fastest time in the nation, only to fall short against WW South, the first team in state history to break nine minutes in the event.