Kristofer Castillo didn’t seem too heartbroken that his third trip to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet wasn’t the charm.
Two days after coming up one place short of qualifying for eight-man finals in the 200 meters, and two places short of the 100-meter finals, the American Canyon High School senior was philosophical.
“Honestly, I finished out the year strong and it’s all I could ask for myself, really,” he said.
He had made the Masters finals in the 100 as a junior, qualifying sixth in the preliminaries, and also as a sophomore, with a seventh-place qualifying time. But he was healthier back then. This year, he had a hamstring injury that slowed him.
“I will also say my back hamstring was acting up a little bit, but I pushed through it to make sure I went out hard,” he said. “There was a lot of wind that day, too.”
During the Solano County Athletic Conference finals at Corbus Field in Vallejo on May 11, it sure looked as if Castillo would become the first Napa County athlete to reach the state meet since 2016, and first from his school since 2013. He set two personal records that day, 10.67 seconds in the 100 and 22.63 in the 200 meters.
He needed only an 11.10 in the 100 to get to the Masters finals, where the winning time ended up being 10.77.
“I was trying to aim for new PRs in the 100 and 200, but you know, you win some, you lose some,” he said. “I went out there and had fun and I enjoyed the last races of my last track season in high school. I just feel happy for what I accomplished in the last three years of running track, and I couldn’t have asked for a better coaching staff to help me and guide me through this, because honestly when I started out doing this, I didn’t think it would get me this far, and it did, man.”
By “this far,” he meant signing a letter of intent to continue his track and field career at Chico State. He did that on Friday in front of friends, family and faculty in the ACHS Theater.
“I’m not as disappointed that I didn’t make it (to state) as I am sad that it’s my last year of running track in high school,” he said. “It leaves more room for improvement when I get to college, and I can do my best there.”
He stopped playing football as a freshman – not because of his relatively small physique, but because he liked team sports and thought track and field fit that description better than football.
“I’m just happy to be a part of the bigger cause, being part of a team,” he said. “When I did football, I didn’t feel that sense of being a part of something, but here (in track and field), you rely on your whole team to get points to make sure we win our meets, and it’s nice to see that I can help out in a major way with my 100 and 200 and relays.”
Sprinters who qualify in two events often “scratch” one to focus on the other, especially at sections or Masters. But Castillo said that never crossed his mind.
“I wouldn’t say it had anything to do with me being tired. There was like an hour in between them, but I had enough time to prep up for each one,” he said. “I think I’ve gotten used to the fact they’re so close together. If I had to, I would probably scratch the 200 because the 100 is one of my best races. But I look at them as a sandwich. The 4x100 and 4x400 are the bread, the 100 and 200 are the meat, the best parts for me.
“I feel the 100 is what I do best, the one I’m always working on what I need to improve upon – my starts and what getting off as fast as I can and focusing on my own race and not anyone else’s, because the minute you’re doing that, you’re not trying to beat yourself anymore.”
Yet he came closer to state this year in the 200.
“The minute I knew I wasn’t going to qualify in the 100, I felt my 200 might be my last race so I told myself ‘I’m going to go out as hard as I can and push myself,’ which I did. I was surprised I beat the dude next to me. I gave it my all that day.”
What may have looked like three straight years of frustration on the outside for Castillo has actually been a building passion for the sport – to where he can’t wait to do it four more years at the NCAA Division II level.
“It’s going to be a whole new experience,” he said. “I’ve gotten to like track so much, I want to see what more is in store for me in college. I want to kick butt out there and show people what I am and what I can do.”
He said his sprint coach at American Canyon, head coach Qwen Stewart, pushed him from the beginning. She also coaches Vallejo’s highly successful Fast Forward Track Club.
“She’s amazing,” he said. “She’s always been there to tough me out and let me know what I can do to improve, when to take ice baths, what I should be drinking. She’s just been there for me and she’s very helpful and I just could not ask for a better coach in high school.”
Once he visited Chico State, he was excited for the next step in his athletic career.
“It was like a love-at-first-sight type of thing,” he recalled. “The minute I walked in, I just know it was the school for me, where I belonged – the atmosphere, the people, the town, the coaches. It was where I wanted to spend my last four years of school.
“People have said, ‘Oh, you should be going to a Division I school with your times,’ but I couldn’t care less about that. I feel if the school is right for you, it should matter what division it is, just if you like in there or not.”