NORWALK — In his senior year at Corona del Mar High, Spencer Keith definitely has shown the ability to peak at the end of the season.
He did it in cross-country, qualifying for the CIF State Meet. On Friday night at the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet, he did the same thing in track and field. Keith qualified sixth for state in the 3,200-meter race at Cerritos College, finishing in 9 minutes, 2.88 seconds.
Unlike this past fall, though, the Colorado State-bound Keith is not the only Newport-Mesa athlete to make the trip up to the Fresno area for the state meet. He actually has plenty of company.
Four others also qualified for the meet, scheduled for June 6-7 at Buchanan High in Clovis, each one for the first time. Everyone advanced by placing top six in his or her respective events, or meeting the at-large time standard.
Two other Sea Kings will make the trip. Harvard-bound senior Matt Hurst qualified fourth in the 400 meters, in a personal-best and school-record time of 47.79 seconds. And the lone local girls' athlete at Masters, Cal Poly Pomona-bound CdM senior Asha Hardy, tied for fifth and met the at-large standard in the girls' high jump by clearing 5 feet, 5 inches for the second straight week.
Costa Mesa senior Quinton Bell, bound for Texas Southern University, also advanced to state in the 100 meters by placing fourth in 10.87 seconds. Sage Hill's CJ McCord made it in the high jump after he was one of nine jumpers to clear 6-7.
To be sure, the Masters Meet was a great one for the local contingent. CdM Coach Bill Sumner said it was the first time since 2001 that CdM has three athletes advancing to state. And Bell is the first Mustang to make state since Jasmin Day in the high jump in 2006.
"We've had a little bit of a dry spell lately," Sumner said. "It's exciting that they made it, but it's even more exciting the marks they made it with. It's not like, oh, by the skin of your teeth. These kids made the at-large marks. It's incredible. We're looking forward to next week … It's an exciting thing for the kids. It's the Super Bowl for them."
Keith said he was simply trying to stay in the top six in the 3,200 to qualify, though he also easily met the at-large standard time of 9:08.64. He said he's excited that Hurst, one of his good friends, also is moving on.
Hurst just missed out on state last year in the 400, placing seventh. The Division 3 champion left no doubt this time, breaking 48 seconds for the first time.
"I came close last year," Hurst said. "I was a little less nervous [this year at Masters]. I was more prepared. That definitely helped."
Hardy did not even think she'd make it to Cerritos College. Last year, she didn't even get past the Pacific Coast League finals.
Yet, she has shown great improvement. She set a personal-best in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 finals last week. She matched it Friday in her first try at 5-5, ensuring she would make the trip to Clovis. She's the first Newport-Mesa girls' athlete to make the state track meet in four years.
"It was really exciting," Hardy said. "My season wasn't that great actually. I was averaging 5-2 at most of my meets. Toward the end, I just really got comfortable with my curve and everything. Last meet, I PRed at 5-5, and now I'm feeling really solid at 5-5. Now I'm aiming for 5-7 at state."
Bell qualified in one of his two events, making it in the 100 but not the 200. He placed eighth in the latter event, in 21.81 seconds.
Bell said that a false start by another runner in the 100 hurt him a bit. He didn't quite match his personal-best of 10.63 last week. Still, making the state meet was quite an accomplishment, especially after battling injuries during the football and basketball seasons.
"I felt like my first start, on the false start, was a little better than the second one," Bell said. "But you know, I ran pretty good on the second one too. And I qualified, so that's all that matters. It's not my best, but it's good enough to get me in, so I'm just moving forward."
McCord also did not equal his best, the Lightning school record of 6-9 in the high jump. But the Division 4 champion qualified for state by nailing his final attempt at 6-7. His feet brushed the bar, which wobbled but remained on the standard.
"That was pretty nerve-wracking," he said. "My goal this meet was 6-9, but I felt a little stiff coming into it … I only practiced once for this meet, so I was a little nervous."
Now, McCord said his goal at state is to clear 6-10.
McCord was joined in the high jump by the other Newport-Mesa competitor at the Masters Meet, CdM senior Alex Wilde. He tied for 14th in the event, clearing 6-3.
Sumner said Wilde has still been jumping well at the end of the season. As for the other three Sea Kings, they were able to extend their season one more week.
"We haven't been to state for a couple of years, so it's nice to be back," Sumner said. "It's good for the kids, you know? It gives the next group of kids a goal, which is exciting for us."