* Watch the girls 3200m seeded section from the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
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"I can't believe I just did that." -- Angelina Perez
By Jim Lambert - New Jersey MileSplit
Never being completely satisfied and always working harder to get better and faster: That's what makes the great runners become legends.
That's what defines Angelina Perez.
Perez, coming off arguably the greatest cross-country season in state history when she set the New Jersey course record at Holmdel Park of 17:07 and placed second at the Eastbay National Championships in December, was thrilled with what she accomplished on the trails.
But she also knew she couldn't become complacent, and had to keep on grinding to raise her fitness level even higher to chase down even bigger goals on the track.
So the senior at Lakeland Regional started pounding out long runs each Saturday at the beginning of January as part of her plan to to drop some hot times..
The University of Florida-bound Perez didn't let anything stop her from getting her mileage in -- not frigid temperatures, snow, or icy roads could slow her down. On Feb. 8, she averaged 6:16 per mile while cranking out a 14-mile run through the hilly roads of Ringwood, and there was another 14-miler in seven degree temperatures on Jan. 15.
On Saturday, it was time for Perez to find out what the payoff would be for her grueling training and commitment to her craft when she attacked the track at the 53rd NJSIAA Meet of Champions at the Bennett Center in Toms River.
Perez, aiming for a sub 10:20, got way more out of herself then she or anyone else ever imagined when the indefatigable distance dynamo stopped the clock at a mind-boggling and jaw-dropping 10:00.90 to absolutely obliterate the state record.
Perez's epic run on the flat track shaved more than 14 seconds off the state 3,200m record of 10:15.02 that Charlotte Bednar of Lawrenceville ran at the Virginia Showcase in January of 2021, and is obviously well under the state indoor 2-mile record of 10:16.75 set by Ashley Higginson of Colts Neck when she won the New Balance National title in 2007.
It also wiped out the meet record of 10:24.73 by Dana Giordano of Bernards in 2012. Perez's 10:00.90 is also the fastest indoor time in the nation this season, No. 9 all-time in U.S. high school indoor history, and is just off the NJ outdoor record of 9:59.34 that Bednar ran last May.
When she crossed the line, the crowd erupted in euphoria and Perez sat on the track for a few seconds with her mouth opened wide in stunned disbelief as she tried to comprehend what she just did. She wore a look of complete shock on her face as she walked off the track.
"I felt like I was ready to run fast, but not this fast,'' said Perez. "I can't believe I just did that. I've been working really hard in my training and was hoping it would pay off with some great times, but I never imagined that this would happen.''
Perez, who won the State Group 2 title last week in 10:21.29, sliced nearly 20 seconds off her PR of 10:20.95 from last spring.
Perez, who also won the indoor Meet of Champions 3,200m title in 2020 -- it wasn't held last year due to COVID -- ran 4:58.8 for her final 1,600m and she nearly lapped the entire field.
In the 3,200m at the Meet of Champions last June, Perez built a huge lead after a blistering first 1,600m, but paid the price and faded over the final 400 and wound up third.
She said she wasn't concerned at all about that happening again after running 5:02.1 for the first 1,600m on Saturday.
"I am just so much stronger now that I was last year,'' said Perez, who will be aiming to win the two-mile at the New Balance Nationals Championships at the NY Armory next weekend. "I felt really good and was able to just keep pushing the pace. I was confident the whole race that what happened at Meet of Champions outdoors wasn't going to happen again. I am just a different runner now.''
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
How did Perez run 10:00.90 and become the fastest 3200m/two-miler in NJ history?
Here are her splits:
Lap 1: 36.8
Lap 2: 37.9 (74.7)
Lap 3: 37.8
Lap 4: 37.6 (2:30.1)
Lap 5: 38.3
Lap 6: 37.7 (3:46.1)
Lap 7: 37.9
Lap 8: 37.9 (5:02.1)
Lap 9: 37.9
Lap 10: 37.9
Lap 11: 37.7
Lap 12: 36.9
Lap 13: 37.4
Lap 14: 36.9
Lap 15: 37.5
Lap 16: 36.7 (10:00.90)