At the big meets, Quinton Bell kept telling his competition, "I'm going to catch you at state."
Bell, a Costa Mesa High senior, lived up to his words.
Bell started slow in the boys' 100 meters, but closed strong, running the event in a Costa Mesa school-record 10.51 seconds to place third at the CIF State track and field championships on Saturday at Buchanan High in Clovis. The performance is a remarkable one considering how raw of a talent Bell is and how much the three-sport standout has overcome in his final school year.
Bell battled through a hip flexor injury and a partially collapsed lung during the football season, and a fractured ankle sidelined him during the basketball season.
Nothing slowed Bell down in his final sport, track and field. He broke the Mustangs' school record in the 100 for the fifth time this season, and became the first Costa Mesa male sprinter to medal at state.
"It's a great way to finish my high school career," said Bell via phone, adding that he missed his prom on Saturday night because he qualified for the finals after placing sixth in 10.58 during Friday's preliminaries. "I will take this over prom any day."
Bell was one of two local boys with top-three finishes at state. Sage Hill junior CJ McCord placed second in the high jump with a school-record mark of 6 feet 10 1/4. He is the first Sage Hill athlete to medal at state since Zach Chandy placed fourth in the 200 eight years ago.
"It is definitely exciting to clear 6-10 because that was my goal that I set for myself in the beginning of the season," McCord said via text. "My brother [Miles] told me after jumping in prelims [on Friday] that I had a chance to actually win. [He] usually would never say anything positive about anything I did.
"Seeing Eric [Moore of Rialto Carter] clear 7 feet on his first attempt, it was heartbreaking, but I was still satisfied with my overall performance."
Corona del Mar senior Spencer Keith, the only other local to compete on Saturday, finished 14th in the 3,200 meters in 9:07.32. Keith is bound for Colorado State.
The last Costa Mesa athlete to medal at state was Jasmine Day, who won the girls' high jump eight years ago.
Bell fell short of finishing first in the 100, which Mater Dei senior Curtis Godin won in a wind-aided 10.31, and Monrovia senior Cravon Gillespie placed second in 10.45. To beat Godin, Bell would've had to run a state meet record of 10.30, set by San Diego Southwest's Riley Washington in 1992.
Nevertheless, Bell impressed spectators one more time before he leaves for Texas Southern University, where he plans to compete in track and field and football. When competitors look at Bell, a 6-foot-3, 207-pounder, he said they always ask him, "Do you play football?" Bell is proving he can out-run the smaller guys on the track.
"This is only Quinton's second year running track [at Costa Mesa]," said Costa Mesa Coach Steve Moreno, who's in his fourth season. "He showed a lot of potential as a junior [but he failed to make it out of the CIF Southern Section Division 3 preliminaries last season]. He came into his senior year committed and dedicated. What he's done at state shows what an incredible athlete Quinton Bell is. I'm honored to be his coach."