Before Kayla Costello lines up for a 100-meter or 300-meter hurdles race, she gets nervous. Never mind that, in both races, her marks are among the top 25 in the California Interscholastic Federation North Coast Section.
Warriors freshman Chad Bell practices the high jump at practice Tuesday. Bell’s best high jump clearance of the season is 5 feet, 10 inches. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
“They say, ‘set,’ and shoot the gun, and I forget about the nervousness,” she says.
If Chad Bell ever gets nervous, he hides it well behind a witty remark or some distracting action. Track may be his third sport to football and basketball, but it’s a sure test of who he is and what he can be as an athlete.
“I just hope to be able to compete with everybody (in every meet),” he says. “I’m excited for the next years to come.”
Bell and Costello, both freshmen at Del Norte High School, have become fixtures of the Warriors track and field team, quickly earning the respect of their peers and their coach.
“They’re such neat kids in the sense that they’re valued team members,” Del Norte track coach Samuel Escobar says. “They’ve blended into the team well. They’ve showed up, produced, worked hard.”
Costello’s father, Jason, was a basketball and football standout at Del Norte who also played at the College of the Redwoods. Kayla plays basketball and volleyball and also participates in dance — hip-hop is her favorite.
Her best time in the 300 hurdles is 49.44 seconds, set April 28 at the Sterling Bank Invitational in Klamath Falls, Ore. The day before, Costello set her season best in the 100 hurdles (17.17) at the Yreka Lions Invitational. Del Norte won the girls’ team title in Yreka.
Del Norte freshman hurdler Kayla Costello has been one of the top performers among Humboldt-Del Norte League athletes in the 100m and 300m hurdles. She also anchors Del Norte’s relay teams. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
Costello has established herself in the 400-meter and 1,600-meter relays, often running the anchor leg for the Warriors. She added to her growing resume a second-place finish in the 400 (1:04.38) at the Humboldt-Del Norte Pre-County Meet in McKinleyville on Friday, behind teammate Katelynn Rowe.
“She is rocking,” Warrior senior sprinter Jennifer Goacher says. “She’s amazing to be around. She sets her mind to things. Being a freshman, she’s awesome.”
Both Costello and Rowe, a junior, are likely to compete at the Redwood Empire meet in Santa Rosa on May 18, a qualifier for the North Coast Section Meet of Champions.
“I’ve never seen such a strong freshman,” says Rowe. “People call us twins a lot. I’m proud of it. I don’t care.”
Indeed, Rowe and Costello are of similar height and build, with long, dark brown hair. When Rowe’s father, Rob, films her performances at track meets, the camera will follow Costello for long stretches of a race.
Beyond appearances, the two have established a friendship that continues off the track.
“We’ve become pretty close,” Costello says. “We talk (to each other) in school. We’re bonding a lot.”
Where Costello is a more reserved and measured individual, Bell is extroverted. His track teammates have been drawn to what senior thrower Breanna Wakefield calls his “outstanding attitude.”
“He puts a smile on everyone’s face,” Wakefield says. “He never complains. He’s such a great athlete for a freshman. He’s my favorite athlete to watch.”
Bell played running back and linebacker for the Del Norte junior varsity football team and was a member of the Warriors’ freshman basketball team that finished 11-0 this past winter. He aspires to become a college athlete.
While the Del Norte girls track and field team has flourished, the boys squad lacks for numbers. Bell has competed as the only representative for the team in some meets, and Del Norte does not often factor into team competitions.
Nevertheless, Bell has taken advantage of the opportunity to compete in a number of events, and he has excelled. He won the long jump at the Pre-County Meet in a personal-best 19 feet, 8.5 inches; he has also qualified for Friday’s Humboldt-Del Norte All-County Meet in the 100, 200, and high jump.
“I’m just hoping I get to (the North Coast Meet of Champions),” Bell says.
What Bell and Costello have in common, besides their youth, is their drive — to lift themselves up along with their teammates.
“We wish we had more kids like Kayla and Chad,” Escobar says.