NORWALK — Until the track and field season at Costa Mesa High, Quinton Bell hasn't felt right.
He dealt with a hip flexor injury, and then suffered a partially collapsed lung, all while playing football in the fall. In the winter, during the basketball season, he fractured an ankle two games into Orange Coast League play and missed the rest of the season.
Jinxed is how Bell felt about his senior year.
"Dang, I can't get a good year," Bell said he kept telling himself. "I can't stay healthy in one sport."
While others prepared for the track and field season in the spring, Bell rested. Track and field marked his final sport at Costa Mesa and he prayed for an injury-free season.
Bell has managed to stay more than upright. He runs high, and with his 6-foot-3 frame, Bell uses his stride to catch up to the competition and to blow right past them to set Costa Mesa school records.
The sprinter broke two more on Saturday, clocking in at 10.63 seconds in the 100-meter event, and 21.34 in the 200 at the CIF Southern Section track and field divisional finals at Cerritos College. Bell is the lone Newport-Mesa athlete to qualify to Masters in two events.
Before Bell left the venue, he talked with a friend. Then someone familiar approached, asking Bell how he performed. Bell's face beamed when he answered the question, even though it came from Charlie Appell, the coach from Estancia, Costa Mesa's archrival.
Bell's spirits were high, and Appell congratulated him for placing third overall in the 100 and sixth overall in the 200. Not everyone moves on in the sprints, only the top nine performers, regardless of division, secured berths to next week's Masters meet at Cerritos College.
"I can't drop off from here," said Bell, who's headed for Texas Southern University to compete in track and field and football. "I've been getting stronger every week. I definitely have what it takes to get to state. I'm going to do it."
Bell is one of six locals who earned a shot to reach the CIF State finals in Clovis on May 31 and June 1. The other boys advancing to Masters are Corona del Mar's Matt Hurst in the 400, Sage Hill's CJ McCord in the high jump, Corona del Mar's Alex Wilde in the high jump, and Corona del Mar's Spencer Keith in the 3,200. The lone girl is Corona del Mar's Asha Hardy in the high jump.
Three local athletes are alternates in their respective events, Hurst in the boys' 200, Estancia's Persis William-Mensah in the girls' 100, and Newport Harbor's Rachelle A La Torre in the girls' discus throw. The three came close to qualifying.
Hurst was just happy to run the 200, a race he calls fun. He competed in the Division 3 final, in the eighth lane. Inside of Hurst was Bell. Hurst jumped out to a faster start than Bell, who usually takes a little time before he hits a full head of steam.
Bell wound up placing second in the Division 3 final, and Hurst sixth in 21.61. Hurst finished 11th overall, and for breaking his own CdM school record of 21.80, he's the second alternate for the 200 at Masters.
Earlier, Hurst focused on his main event, the 400, and broke another of his CdM school records. The Harvard-bound senior ran a 48.03, winning the Division 3 final and placing sixth overall. The Masters trip in the 400 is Hurst's second in a row.
"To watch him run now, he's just a much smarter 400-meter runner, because last year that was like only his fifth or sixth race [in the 400]," CdM Coach Bill Sumner said. "Now, he's run 15 or 20 of them, so he knows how to run them."
Keith is another of Sumner's top senior runners and he came through for the CdM boys, who shared eighth place with Brea Olinda in Division 3. Keith, who's headed to Colorado State, finished the 3,200 with a personal-best time of 9 minutes 10.83 seconds, good for 11th overall and his first Masters appearance.
The top dozen times in the distance events moved on to Masters. The same number is usually the criteria for making it in the field events.
Nevertheless, in the boys' high jump, 19 qualified to Masters. Sumner joked, "They took everybody."
McCord turned in the best local mark in the high jump, clearing 6 feet 7 inches. The junior won the Division 4 final and claimed eighth overall. The Masters trip is McCord's first, along with Wilde, a senior who shared ninth with 10 other athletes at 6-5.
The last local athlete to reach Masters was Hardy. The senior tied for sixth in the girls' high jump with six others at 5-5.
In all two dozen locals showed up on Saturday for a chance to continue their season. William-Mensah came up short in the 100, placing 12th overall in 12.04 and 25th in the 200 in 25.28. William-Mensah, a UC Irvine commit, is the third alternate in the 100, and A La Torre is also the third alternate in the discus after she finished 15th with a mark of 121 feet 1 inch.
A La Torre, a sophomore, will have opportunities in the future to get to this stage. It took Bell until his senior year to go this far. Bell said he didn't take track and field seriously his first two years, running for Long Beach Poly as a freshman, before transferring to Costa Mesa, where he didn't even go out for the sport as a sophomore.
Two years later, after injuries forced him out of action in football and basketball, Bell loves to run.
"Football is my favorite [sport], but track is definitely getting up there," Bell said. "I'm doing so good and I'm having fun doing it.
"I really wanted to come out here and represent Costa Mesa. I'm the only one that made it [from my school]. I know everyone is looking out here like, 'Where is everyone else?' It feels good to keep my school going and showing that athletes do come out of Costa Mesa."