Perez Runs Epic Time, Goes Sub-17 At Darlington Park

Angelina Perez threw down one of the greatest performances in NJ XC history on Monday when the junior at Lakeland Regional dropped a sub-17!

That's right, Perez ran under 17 minutes when she stopped the clock at a blazing fast 16:56 on the redesigned 5K layout at Darlington Park in Mahwah during a Big North Division C Batch Meet.

Perez's record run is 32 seconds faster than the 17:28 that Monica Hebner of Northern Highlands ran on the original course at Darlington in 2017. Hebner, now starring at the University of Texas, won NJSIAA XC Meet of Champions later that season.

Perez's remarkable run, which comes just two days after she ran the No. 2 time in Garret Mountain history when she blasted a 17:58 to win her race at the Season Opener, places her on a very short list of NJ girls who have ever run under 17. The other known sub 17 runners are among the greatest XC runners in state history.

The last known sub-17 by a NJ girl was turned in by Alyssa Aldridge of Mainland  who ran 16:31 as a sophomore at the 2015 Atlantic County Championships on the 2.9-mile course at Hammonton Lake Park.

Janet Smith of J.P. Stevens, the greatest XC runner in state history, owns the fastest NJ 5K on a championship course when she captured the Kinney (now Foot Locker) National title in 1983 in 16:43 at Balboa Park in San Diego.

The other two known sub-17 NJ girls on championship layouts are Chelsea Ley of Kingsway, who ran 16:48 to break her own course record at the 2009 Tri-County Championship at Cumberland High School, and Briana Gess of Haddonfield, who ran a course record 16:57 as a freshman in 2013 to win the Colonial Conference All-Star meet at Pennyacker Park.

Perez after her Season Opener Invite win at Garret Mountain.

Smith, Aldridge, Ley and Gess all have something else in common. They all captured NJ Meet of Champions XC titles, and they ran some of the fastest times ever at legendary Holmdel Park. Smith won a state record three M of C titles, Aldridge won twice, and Ley and Gess all won it once. 

For Perez to run 17:58 at Garret on Saturday, and 16:56 on Monday at Darlington after not racing since she won the 3200m at the Indoor M of C last March is just remarkable.

How low can Perez go at Holmdel?

Time will tell, but based on what she just did and the fact that she's just a junior, a strong case can be made that Perez is capable of making a serious run at the NJ course record at Holmdel of 17:28, which was set by Megan Venables of Highland in 2010.

Watcher her No. 2 all-time Garret Mountain performance recorded just days before the sub-17 at Darlington.