Mount Baker senior Dillon Quintana has been waiting for this moment for four years, and most of the time, it's been a pretty painful wait.
Quintana had a strong freshman season, placing 44th at the Class 1A State Cross Country Championships, finishing 44th overall, but battled a stress fracture during the spring track season. He nursed himself back over the summer, but a motorcycle accident shortly before the start of his sophomore season cost him the entire fall season and made the spring track schedule just a rehabilitation exercise.
Once back to health as a junior, he again had to be shut down a day before the Northwest Conference Championships with a triple stress fracture in his tibia, fibula and the transverse bone marrow between his ankle and knee.
"I've spent half my high school career in a cast or a boot or on crutches," Quintana said in a phone interview. "The entire time, I was thinking about this moment. Still, it was nothing like what I imagined - it still blows me away."
Quintana edged friendly rival Tom Bradley of Blaine by an eighth of a second to claim the Class 1A state title on Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.
Quintana completed the 5,000-meter course in 15 minutes, 50.0 seconds, while Bradley came home in 15:50.8. Charles Wright's Ruben Riordan was third in 16:07.8.
"I was hoping for first, but when you get a medal at state, you've got to look at the positive," Bradley said in a phone interview. "I'm happy. This is my best finish at state, and this is a good finish. I've had a rough time at state every other year."
Like Quintana, Bradley has had to battle his share of adversity throughout his high school career, including a stress fracture last spring.
But the two have been relatively healthy this fall, and have staged a couple of epic battles as part of a talented group of Whatcom County senior boys' runners.
"It's been fun running with Dillon," Bradley said. "It seems like we've gone back and forth every race. Unfortunately it went to the forth this time - to him and not to me. But it's great to see Dillon have success after all he's been through."
Back and forth also be a good way to describe how Saturday's race went down.
"I sat back the first mile and let Tom and about 12 guys do their thing," Quintana said. "I just sat back and watched. At about a mile and a half, I made my move. Tom and I pulled away, and it was just neck and neck, back and forth the rest of the way. I'd make a surge, and then he'd make a surge."
Bradley had the lead coming down the final hill, but Quintana had one more surge left in him.
"I said to myself, 'I've waited too long for this, and there is no way I'm going to lose this when I'm this close,'" Quintana said. "I flew down that final hill and passed him with about 100 meters to go. I've never beaten someone at the end with a kick like that, especially not Tom or Patrick (Gibson, who won the 2A state title for Squalicum). Those guys always get me, but I had a kick in me this time. I don't know where it came from. I know I've been training so hard for this moment and waiting four years for this opportunity. Everything I went through made me fight for today."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
WHATCOM COUNTY BOYS' INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONS
Runner School Year Class
Chris Vilani Mount Baker 1975 1A
Chris Vilani Mount Baker 1976 1A
Brett Allsop Sehome 1987 2A
Alex Grant Sehome 2002 2A
Jake Riley Sehome 2006 2A
Scott Carlyle Sehome 2009 2A
Scott Carlyle Sehome 2010 2A
Patrick Gibson Squalicum 2011 2A
Dillon Quintana Mount Baker 2012 1A
Patrick Gibson Squalicum 2012 2A
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.