It has taken more than the customary commitment to hard work for Bellarmine College Prep's 4x100 relay team to rise to the top of the Central Coast Section.
It has taken patience, perseverance and a drive to not settle for anything short of their goals, despite three of the team's four runners dealing with physical challenges.
"I'm really happy for them because they've gone through a lot," Bellarmine sprint coach Dan Burke said. "It takes a lot to come back from serious injuries like they've had. We're proud of them."
Joey Sanfilippo is back after suffering a broken bone in his calf at the end of football season.
Aaron Chapman has come back from two anterior cruciate ligament tears, the most recent in a season-opening football loss to De La Salle on Aug. 31, and meniscus surgery.
Nikolai Makarov has overcome severe hamstring problems.
"We're all getting healthy," Sanfilippo said. "We're hoping if our 4x100 can stay healthy and get stronger, hopefully we'll go to state."
The team's progress had been slow but steady until recently. Now, the Bells just might be the section's team to beat.
Bellarmine followed a second-place finish at the CCS Top 8 meet April 19 with an even better performance in a dual meet against St. Francis five days later.
With Taylor Njaka back in the Bellarmine foursome after missing the Top 8 meet because of another commitment, the Bells ran a CCS season-best 42.14 seconds. St. Francis had the previous season best, finishing first at the Top 8 in 42.28.
For Bellarmine, it has been a tough road to the top as Sanfilippo, Chapman and Makarov are just starting to hit their stride.
Sanfilippo described his injury as a "pretty bad break" and noted that he still feels soreness after working out.
"For three months, I wasn't really doing anything," he said. "I was on crutches around school, no pressure on it. Once I started rehabbing, it got a little better."
Chapman tore his left ACL in the second week of the 2011 football season, missed track season last spring and returned to football in the fall, only to tear his right ACL in the first game.
This winter, he had surgery to repair a meniscus.
"I felt like giving up at some points," Chapman said. "But I realized that I want to finish my senior year strong."
Makarov said he badly strained his right hamstring on the track late last season. While rehabilitating it, he strained his left hamstring in November.
"I spent the whole winter rehabbing that," Makarov said. "It's been a long process."
But, given the team's recent results, it just might have a rewarding finish.