For most of the first three years of his high school running career, the only kind of break Mount Baker senior distance runner Dillon Quintana could seem to get was a stress fracture. In between suffering two of those, he also broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg in a motorcycle accident.
But as a senior, fate finally seems to be smiling on Quintana.
He turned in his first fully healthy cross country season since he was a freshman last fall, and the result was a Class 1A individual state title in November.
Quintana's good fortune and strong running continued into the track season, and on Saturday, April 27, he finished eighth in the 3,200 meters at the prestigious Shoreline Invitational. His time of 9 minutes, 15.69 seconds was not only a personal best in the event, it broke a 36-year old school record (9:17) set by Chris Villani.
"I've talked to him the last couple of days, and he (Villani) might be more excited that I was," Quintana said in a phone interview. "I was excited; he was pumped. It's been a long time, and he said he's been waiting for another Baker kid to step up."
And as if that weren't enough, only two days later Quintana got an acceptance letter from his dream college - Gonzaga.
Though he said he hasn't yet signed his National Letter of Intent to the school, he said he plans to do so this week, announcing his intentions to run cross country and track for the Bulldogs.
In doing so, Quintana will become the seventh Whatcom County senior this year to commit to an NCAA Division I program for cross country, track and field or both, joining friendly rivals Patrick Gibson (Squalicum) and Tom Bradley, who, among others, have already committed to Stanford and the University of San Francisco, respectively.
"I've been riding a wave since winning the cross country state title," Quintana said. "Then I set the school record in the two mile; then I'm accepted. I feel like I'm on Cloud 9 and I haven't come down. I'm enjoying every minute of it, and I know I don't want to come down. It's just feeding me to push to keep running strong."
Getting a Division I offer is the highlight of a six-month stretch that certainly made up for the three years of frustration Quintana suffered before it.
After a breakout freshman cross country campaign, he suffered the first of two bad stress fractures during the spring track season that year.
He worked his way back into shape but an Aug. 29 birthday ride with some friends ended in disaster, when a quad slammed into his lower leg, breaking both bones and ending his sophomore cross country season only days before it started.
He used the spring track season to again work his way back into shape and started out his junior cross country season strong before developing a second stress fracture and getting shelved only days before the Northwest Conference Championships.
Last spring was another season used to work his way back to health, but he's now finally able to show exactly what he can do on two healthy legs.
"I feel like this has been amazing," Quintana said. "My senior year has made up for all the lost time of the last three years. I've made up a lot of ground, and there is no better feeling you could have. It's great to be running strong again."
To see the fruits of those labors realized the way they have in the past week with the school record and a chance to run for a Division I program makes it even sweeter.
"Last night, I sat down with my family for a celebration dinner," Quintana said. "My dad told me it was one of the best days of his life - sending me off to college, and it's a super prestigious college and seeing me continue my running career. I've checked everything off my list, and it's a good feeling."
Of course, Quintana said, that only means it's time to create a new list.
He believes he's done that by selecting Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs are coached by Pat Tyson, who coached Mead High School to 12 team titles over 18 years and was a roommate and teammate of Steve Prefontaine when he was a runner at the University of Oregon.
"Coach Tyson has been there (at Gonzaga) for a few years now, and he's developing the program," Quintana said. "He turned Mead into a powerhouse, and now he's trying to do the same thing on the college level. He's a great guy, and I believe he's starting to do it. ... He's trying to recruit guys that he feels have a shot of making it to the 2016 Trials. That's the type of guy he's bringing in now, and so I think this program is really on the rise."
Besides the on-course success Gonzaga is building, Quintana said he also was intrigued by the family atmosphere the runners, most of who live together in the same dorm.
Quintana said Boise State and Oregon also showed interest in him, and he even visited the Idaho campus, but chose to head to Spokane because Gonzaga offered the best Mechanical Engineering program for his major and the best overall feeling.
"It took a lot of work to get into that school," Quintana said. "I had to skip a lot of practices to go after teachers and get help with my SAT prep. But I ended up raising my score by 130 or 120 points. I really kicked it in gear really fast."
Not coincidentally, he's been able to do the exact same thing during his senior year of running.
"I'm super excited right now," Quintana said. "I couldn't have high school finish in a better way. All that hard work and everything I had to go through, it's all falling perfectly into place right now."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
DIVISION I TALENT
Whatcom County high school seniors that have announced their intentions to compete for an NCAA Division I cross country or track program next year:
Runner High school College
Tom Bradley Blaine San Francisco
Joe Charbonneau Bellingham Seattle University
Gina Flint Squalicum Washington
Brittany Gappa Squalicum Boston University
Patrick Gibson Squalicum Stanford
Sydney Gray Meridian Pepperdine
Dillon Quintana Mount Baker Gonzaga
NOTE: To report a Whatcom County student athlete planning to compete in college in any sport, please contact David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.