Castillo's triple, which saw her win the 3,200 and 800-meter invitationals in 10:48.88 and 2:17.99 - new personal bests in both events - and finish second in the 1,600-meter invitational in 5:04.65, will go down as one of the greatest triples in Santa Clarita Valley history.
Her strength and maturity throughout the two-day meet at Moorpark High School showed glimpses of the great Shannon Murakami, who was nearly unbeatable against Foothill League competition during her junior and senior years. The 2016 SCV Runner of the Year showed family, friends and fans in attendance that she has the ability to compete against the best at any distance event, no matter how the race is run.
Friday night was Castillo's first test of the weekend. The junior was the class of the field, covering the final 1,200 meters in 3:48 (5:04 mile pace!) to win in a new personal best of 10:48.88. Teammates Kaylee Thompson and Jacqueline Cascione enjoyed stellar performances as well, finishing second (11:03.80) and seventh (11:05.72) in the race. Cascione's performance was especially noteworthy, as she ran a 19-second personal best and the 14th fastest mark on the the SCV high school all-time sophomore list.
Castillo's second race presented her with the biggest challenge - and opportunity - as she toed the line against the reigning Footlocker National Cross Country Champion, Claudia Lane of Malibu, over 1,600 meters. The race was a quick one from the gun, as the two motored through 200 meters in 31 seconds, before passing the halfway mark in a blistering 2:22 split (4:44 pace!).
In the end, it was Lane winning in a state-leading 4:53.23, with Castillo hanging on to earn runner-up honors in 5:04.65, well clear of the third place finisher, teammate Thompson in 5:14.97. Cascione also finished in the top 10, clocking 5:17.57 for sixth place, 2.21 seconds off her PR.
"I was expecting to race Claudia in either the 1,600m or 3,200m, and I knew I needed to put myself out there because it will help me improve as a runner," said Castillo, who finished fourth last year's at CIF State Div. 2 Cross Country Championships. "I look up to her. She is just an amazing runner and I really hope I race against her again because it's really nice having someone that pushes me to be better and get to the next level."
Her third and final race saw her hold off Westlake's Maya Sharp to win the 800-meter invite in a new PR of 2:17.99, completing what has to be considered one of the all-time best triples in SCV history. Cascione also tripled, running a personal best of 2:27.66.
Castillo's 2:17.99 ranks No. 19 on the SCV high school all-time junior list, while her 5:04.65 is No. 15 all-time on the junior list, and her 10:48.88 is the eighth fastest mark recorded by a junior in Foothill League history.
"I think that this triple is setting me up for this season and making me more confident that I can run with the best runners," said Castillo.
The Saugus boys distance program performed well over the two-day meet, highlighted by a race for the ages, which saw the Centurions put five boys under the 10-minute barrier in heat one of the 3,200-meter invite with two others sub-10:10 in heat two. No team in Foothill League history has ever had more than four boys break 10 minutes in one race prior to last night, and the Foothill League record for most sub-10s by one school in one season is 11.
Boon Andrews led the quintet under 10 minutes, finishing fifth in a personal best of 9:43.48, followed by sophomore Kobe Serrano (9:53.82), CJ Westenhofer (9:55.24) and Elijah Stepan (9:55.44), in ninth, 10th and 11th, all-time bests for all three runners. Junior Juan Enciso was the fifth and final Saugus competitor to break the barrier, taking 16th in 9:58.86, with senior teammate Luke Wilke winning heat two in 10:07.88 and junior Ethan Ross running a personal best of 10:09.99 for second place.
Foothill League rival Golden Valley HS joined Saugus on day two of the meet, led by sophomore Alexis Romero. The Grizzly rebounded from a difficult cross country season to finish an impressive fourth in his season opener. His 4:32.55 now ranks No. 18 on the SCV high school all-time sophomore list. Teammate Jaime Calderon was next best, finishing sixth in 4:34.31, a new personal best for the senior.
Saugus had five boys run between 4:34-4:44, highlighed by Enciso, the only other Foothill League runner to appear in the top 10. Enciso put together a solid triple, finishing eighth in 4:34.52, then, returned to win the 800-meter invite in a stellar 2:00.92.
Westenhofer finished 11th (4:38.50), Andrews was 14th (4:39.94) and Serrano took 16th (4:42.50), with Golden Valley's Jacob Acosta in 12th (4:39.08) and David Benitez in 18th (4:42.81). Saugus junior Collin Werth also domined Friday night, winning in a personal best of 4:40.20.
The boys 800-meter invite also included last year's fourth-place finisher from the Foothill League frosh/soph finals, Jake Rockford, who finished fifth in 2:06.07. The quartet of Enciso (2:00 PR), Rochford (2:04 PR), Westenhofer (1:58 PR) and Andrews (2:07 PR) will take aim at Saugus' 4x800-meter relay record of 8:10.80 - the oldest relay record in school history - at next weekend's Redondo Union Distance Carnival. None of the four were born at the time the record was set way back in 1991, making it the oldest Saugus distance relay record by 16 years.