Wilson Perez runs into the Keene State Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame after a stellar four-year career (1997-01) competing on the trails and track for the Owls. “He was a steady and consistent runner who could always be counted on when the gun sounded. He richly deserves the honor of being inducted into the KSC hall of fame,” said longtime Owl cross country and track coach Peter Thomas. Perez said he was “super excited” and humbled to be considered among the all-time great athletes at the College.
An eight-time All-American at Keene State in cross country and track, Perez help lead Keene State to second-place finishes at the 1999 and 2000 NCAA cross country championships. Individually, he finished second in the indoor 5,000-meter race his sophomore year and second in the outdoor 10,000 race his senior year. In his final season, Perez, a four-time All-Region runner, also won the New England Division III cross country championship.
Ask about his motivation to excel as a runner, Perez said he enjoyed the challenge of pushing his body and demonstrating to people who believed in him that he could improve and make a name for himself in the sport.
Growing up in Newmarket, N.H., the same town that produced Olympian Lynn Jennings, Perez used to race home from elementary school. As a senior at Newmarket High, Perez finished third in his class meet, qualifying for the New England championships. Perez credits several people for his rise in running, including high school coaches Jack Brown and David Pelletier, his basketball coach Scott Weitzell, and his mother, Thelma Hawkins “After my first race, she was hooked,” he said.
It took a while for Perez to get up to speed when he joined the Owls. “When I came in as a freshman, I was undertrained,” he said. “Every practice felt like I was racing.”
But Perez persevered. Gaining a spot on the talented Owl cross country varsity as a freshman, he earned the first of his eight All-America honors with his 23rd place finish at the nationals. “That ignited my fire to improve,” Perez said. “Once I became an All-American, I just had to do it again.” Moving up the national ladder every season, Perez placed 12th as a junior and a strong fourth as a senior.
Perez proved to be just as tenacious on the track, posting a pair of second-place finishes, first in the 5K in the NCAA indoor championship as a sophomore, and later in the 10K at the outdoor meet as a senior. One of his most memorable performances took place at the prestigious Penn Relays his junior year, when he clocked a 10K time of 29:45, one of the top marks ever achieved by a KSC runner. “It was a great time and a great experience,” he said. “I can look back and definitely say I gave 110 percent every time I stepped on the start line.”
Graduating with a degree in health science, Perez continued to compete before entering the corporate world. Itching to get back into the sport, Perez served as an assistant coach for several seasons at Keene State before taking over the cross country program at Colby-Sawyer College.
Perez won’t soon forget the past year and a half: he was married, he and his wife have their first son, Wilson Perez III, he accepted a full-time position as the head cross country and track coach at New England College, and he was informed of his induction into the Keene State Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame. “It’s been an amazing period of my life,” he said.