Possibly the only thing more impressive than Wheaton Warrenville South's team victory at the 36th annual Tiger Invitational on Friday was Glenbard West junior Madeline Perez's time in the 3,200-meter run.
The Tigers won their own girls track meet for a third consecutive year, racking up 130.5 points to easily defeat second-place St. Ignatius, which scored 63.
"It was real exciting," said Tigers senior co-captain Jessica Spera. "Our team, we push each other really hard in practices. We just come out here and each do our best, so it's really awesome."
"It's a fun meet, and for us to do as well as we did with the quality of the teams, I mean St. Ignatius, nobody knows about a St. Ignatius," said Tigers coach Rob Harvey. "They're unbelievable. Glenbard West is a great team."
Glenbard West was third with 61 points. Oswego took fourth, with Naperville North fifth, Bolingbrook sixth, Naperville Central seventh and Glenbard South eighth in the 19-team field.
"We were not going to beat Wheaton South tonight, that's for sure," Hilltoppers coach Kelly Hass said. "They are just too deep and too good."
Speaking of too good, Perez opened the finals by lapping half the field in the 3,200 run, finishing in 10:21.19, one of the top times in the nation this year and more than 26 seconds faster than second-place Lindsay Graham of Glenbard East. Perez crushed the meet record that had stood for 30 years.
"I'm pretty happy," Perez said. "A new (personal record). I'll always take that. But each week I'm getting stronger and stronger, and it's good to see it in my actual races. So yeah, I'm pretty happy."
"Unbelievable," said Hass, trying to find the words to describe Perez. "That kid is ridiculous. She is so amazing. ...
"Actually we stuck her in the mile relay at the last minute because one of the kids couldn't run it and she ran a 63-second leg. What? You're not a sprinter. You're going to run the mile relay at the state meet too? She's just incredible. She gets better every meet. Everybody thinks that she's topping out, but no. She's just going to find something else the next time around."
Perez had plenty of help from her teammates. Glenbard West's Emma Reifel took third and Lisa Luczak fifth in a loaded 1,600 meters. Emma Gambol earned third place in the 200 meters just minutes after placing fourth in the 300 low hurdles. Grace Walker tied for second in the high jump after being out three weeks with a knee injury.
"Our sprinters came through for us tonight," Hass said. "Everybody knows we're distance heavy, so it was nice to see some shining moments."
But WW South had many more shining moments.
Amy Smith won the pole vault at 11-0. Erin Zappia and Alexandra Enright went 1-2 in the high jump, Hope Schmelzle won the 400 and the Tigers finished the meet by holding off Glenbard West in the 1,600 relay.
But the Tigers built their big advantage through athletes like Spera. She placed second by .01 in the 100 hurdles and earned more big points with another second-place finish in the long jump.
"Jessie Spera is a tenacious competitor," Harvey said, "but very quiet. ... She's a relay kid, but she also has our school record in the hurdles. She is everything that you want in a captain and a kid on the team. She has made herself into an elite kid. She's never out of the weight room. And she is just a wonderful kid."
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