SEATTLE – (March 13) Bleu Perez is writing his name in the record books – 5,600 miles away.
In his first season on the Seattle U track and field team, Perez is breaking national records in his home country of Guam.
Just a few months after finishing high school at Father Duenas Memorial School in Mangilao, Guam, Perez moved with his family to the United States in 2014 where he spent two years at Pierce College in Puyallup, Wash. and graduated with his Associate’s degree.
He stayed in “track shape” by running on club teams, and at the beginning of Winter Quarter 2017, Perez enrolled at Seattle U and was able to compete in the end of the indoor track and field season as a Redhawk.
At the Western Athletic Championships (WAC) in Nampa, Idaho last month, Perez garnered attention from back home when he broke Guam national indoor records in both the 60 meter dash and the 200 meter dash.
At the UW Open on Feb. 12, Perez broke the seven-year-old 60-meter record with a time of 7.15. Then, he did it again – and more – at the WAC Championships two weeks later.
Perez finished the 60 with a time of 7.11, a personal record, to again re-write the Guam national record. He also finished the 200 with a time of 22.67 to break the six-year-old record.
At the time, Perez admits he had no idea he had broken the records. He was just excited with his new personal best times. He said it took awhile for it to sink in what he had done.
Both records were previously held by another Redhawk, former Seattle U track and field student-athlete Jude Martinez, who graduated in 2011.
Perez and Martinez’s connection goes further than that, as they both had attended the same high school in Guam, although not at the same time. Rather, Martinez and Perez’s older sister were classmates, and Martinez was a family friend.
Martinez influenced Perez’s decision to come to Seattle U.
“He told me, ‘Seattle U is a good school, you should check it out. They have really good programs there and it’s a good environment.’ So, I trusted him, I applied here, and I didn’t doubt him for a bit,” Perez said.
Perez said he owes Martinez for giving him running tips growing up. Tips that, paired with his new college coaches, have helped him perform at Seattle U – and break his mentor’s records.
“Jude’s a really nice guy and knows his stuff in track and field,” Perez said. “It felt nice to break his records, but I have to owe it to him because he gave me all those tips and taught me how to actually run and perform in this sport.”
Perez said he thought it was “crazy” when he found out he had broken the records.
“It was an exciting experience,” Perez said. “I just had to trust coach (Chad) Pharis’s training. He got me to where I want to be, and I’m still improving.”
Back in Guam, Perez was a member of the Guam National Track and Field Team, and competed at the 2014 Guam National Track and Field Championships, where he took home gold in the 400, silver in the 200, and bronze in the 100. Perez was also selected as an Olympic Alternate for Team Guam at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Representing Guam is something he wants to do again.
“2020 and 2024, I definitely want to go to the Olympics. It’s a big dream of mine,” Perez said. “I’m striving for that, and hopefully by then I’ll have my medals, I’ll have my records, but other than that I just need to keep trusting my training and praying to God that it’s His will that I’ll be able to go to the Olympics and maybe even place up there.”
With aspirations of becoming an Olympian, Perez will be working to continue to make an impact on the Guam record books come outdoor season.
Assistant coach Chad Pharis has liked what he’s seen out of Perez in the three short months he’s been working with him. Already, Pharis thinks the collegiate goals they set for Perez might not have aimed high enough with the potential he’s shown.
“Since Bleu joined the team in January, he has steadily been improving,” Pharis said. “Coming from running/training on his own, to having more structure and teammates to train with has been very beneficial for Bleu. He is constantly striving to improve form, work on his strength, and reach his goals. I expect him to continue to trend upward with his performances this outdoor season. He may wind up needing to rewrite his goals for the year by the end of the season.”
Because Perez is new to the program, head coach Trisha Steidl said she hasn’t had many opportunities to work with him, especially since her expertise is with the distance runners. However, she’s already impressed with him, and can’t wait to see what he’ll do as a Redhawk.
“It is clear he is a respectful and energetic guy who puts his all into everything he does. In our so-far limited interactions, I’ve only seen positivity from him,” Steidl said. “I look forward not only to working with him more, but to see him continue to improve himself. He is focused on doing and giving his best, and from that he will continue to make great improvements. The national records are icing on the cake.”
Heading into the outdoor season, Perez looks forward to continuing to improve. He has big aspirations for himself that go beyond breaking records.
“Hopefully I can improve on my times and maybe break the outdoor record, as well,” Perez said. “But records can be broken. If I can get a gold medal, then that’s something that will always stay with me. It will say, ‘Bleu Perez: first place at WAC Championships,’ and that’s something that will always be there.”
The Seattle U outdoor season begins March 18 at the Lewis and Clark Spring Break Open in Portland, Ore.
It will be his first full season on the track team, and he can’t wait. The magnitude of this opportunity (running for a university) isn’t lost on him.
“I’m blessed to have a good team, good coaches, good training squad, family, my friends backing me, the island of Guam on my shoulders,” Perez said. “I’m very blessed to be here.”