O'FALLON — It was a moment of joy, relief and accomplishment all rolled into one for O'Fallon High School senior Patrick Perrier.
Running as a member of the Panthers track and field team for the last time in the final of the 1,600 meters at the Class 3A State Track Meet at O'Brien Stadium in Charleston, Perrier took the lead on the final lap.
Coming around the final curve and with the finish line in sight, nobody was going to catch him.
"When I realized I was going to win it? It was really pure joy and hapiness,'' Perrier said in a phone interview. "I remember glancing over to my right and seeing my dad on the side and he was going crazy. My mom and dad have been my biggest supporters these last few years.
"I had run in I guess five state final races on that (O'Brien) stadium track in the last three years and I had never felt like that. To be able to win the 1,600 meters in my last high school track meet was a great way to end it.''
In three years as a member of the Panthers track and field and cross country programs, Perrier won 11 state medals -- including eight individual medals.
The 2013 Class 3A state cross country champion, Perrier also placed second in the 3,200 this year.
For those accomplishments, Perrier has been chosen as the Belleville News-Democrat co-Track and Field athlete of the Year.
Perrier shares the honor with Jamari Ward of Cahokia.
Headed to Stanford University, where he will be reunited with former rival and Edwardsville standout Garrett Sweatt as members of the Cardinal cross country and track and field programs, Perrier competed twice more after the state meet in May.
He has since taken two weeks off and is vacationing with his family on the East Coast.
"I just started training again on Monday,'' Perrier said. "I'll increase the mileage in the next couple of weeks. I leave at the end of August for Stanford.
"Am I ready for it? I know I'm excited about getting out there and facing the new challenges that await me both athetically and academically. Stanford is a great school.''
Perhaps energized by the state cross country title in November, Perrier began his track season with a bang, running times of 9:12.5 in the 3,200 and 4:21 in the 1,600 at the Southern Illinois University Indoor championships.
Then, competing at an invitational in Arcadia Calif., in April, Perrier hit one of his magic numbers as he ran a time of 9:00.45 in the 3,200.
It was just the start of incredible string of races which saw Perrier run a time of 1:51.18 in the 800 at the Southwestern Conference Meet in Alton and a memorable time of 4:07.51 in the 1,600 at the Collinsville Invitational.
At the time, Perrier's 4:07.51 was the ninth best in the nation.
"My training was going well and I was running well. I was also running without as much pressure. The pressure I put on myself,'' Perrier said. "I felt good and I felt strong heading into the last few meets of the year,''
Perrier's times didn't go unnoticed.
Panthers cross country coach and assistant track coach Jon Burnett had been around Perrier for the past three years.
In his final month as a Panther, Perrier's times were just staggering
"We were talking at the state meet and trying to think of someone who had run 9 minutes, sub 4:10 in the 1,600 and 1:51 in the 800 meters. One of the names we came up with was Craig Virgin. But I wasn't sure he had run 1:51 in the 800,'' Burnett said. "Regardless, when you think of the great distance runners in the metro-east, you think Virgin, Stephen Pifer, Garrett Sweatt.
"I think you've got to Patrick in that group as well.''