Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
El Camino senior Gerardo Castro won four events at Saturday’s PAL Championship, but has his sights set on the 800 meter in the upcoming Central Coast Section championship meet.
El Camino’s Gerardo Castro was still trying to catch his breath after a standout performance in the boys’ 3,200 meter in Saturday’s Peninsula Athletic League Track and Field Championship finals.
Amid congratulations from teammates and competitors alike, El Camino head coach Pat Holmes walked nonchalantly over to his star senior distance runner and handed him a surprise — a numbered badge for the upcoming 4x400 meter boys relay.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Castro said smiling through deep heaving breaths.
Holmes was not kidding. So, Castro reciprocated by running a serious anchor leg to lead the Colts’ boys to a decisive win in the 4x400 meter. It was the fourth win of the meet for Castro, who also topped the podium in the 800, the 1,600 and the 3,200. Because of his exceptional showing at the PAL Championship, Castro has been named the San Mateo Daily Journal Athlete of the Week.
It was quite a week for Castro as last week he was unveiled as one of the El Camino Boys Blanket Award winners, given to the Colts’ male athlete of the year. Castro shared the honor with sprinter Brandon Gip, who also plays football. What makes Castro an unconventional choice, though, is he is exclusively a cross-country/track-and-field athlete. In earning El Camino athletics’ top honor, he is in select company with other who only competed in track, such as 1990 winner Ron Sarte and ‘87 winner Peter O’Driscoll.
Make no mistake, Castro is built to last. While participating in four events in one day is not optimal for a distance runner, the senior’s results speak for themselves.
After setting the PAL Championship meet record in the 800 last season, Castro won the 800 this year with a time of 1:55.95. He took first place in the 1,600 with a 4:17.10 and flew through the 3,200 with a 9:31.86. And as he made his way into the bell lap well ahead of the pack in the 3,200, that good ol’ runner’s high kicked in.
“Almost 500 to go, I was feeling pretty good … and I got that kick,” Castro said.
For Castro, who always seems to be in control, it’s all about the kick. That’s where the training comes in. Enduring four-performance days under the spotlight of playoff conditions is all part of a deliberate strategy by Holmes, who is gearing his senior towards the 800 at the Central Coast Section finals May 30 at San Jose City College — and hopefully beyond, as Castro ranks among Northern California’s top 10 in the event.
“He hasn’t had a meet this year where he’s been able to focus on just one race and go into the 800 with fresh legs,” Holmes said.
Still, Castro runs for distance with brilliant strategy. In Saturday’s 1,600, he drafted behind Carlmont’s Ryan Dimick and Half Moon Bay’s Logan Marshall — who finished second and third, respectively — for the first mile and a half. Content to race from third place until the penultimate lap, he quickly moved into second place before using the kick to take off like a bullet going into the bell lap.
It was a classic performance for what was the final two-mile competition of Castro’s career. Now, if Holmes’ strategy pays off, Castro will hit stride in CCS with something of a long-term kick. It is precisely this strategy that saw Holmes have Castro refrain from overdoing it early this season.
“I didn’t want to put too many miles on him,” Holmes said. “That’s why we didn’t do too many invitationals. We wanted to save it for days like [Saturday].”
Castro’s biggest improvement in the mile was between his sophomore and junior season. As a sophomore, he ran the 1,600 at an average of 4:40. Then at the outset of his junior season, he cracked the 4:19 threshold.
Taking the track for the 1,600 Saturday, it was obvious Castro owns the event. Without a single step of arrogance, Castro walked onto the track out front of the rest of the pack. With the starting gun, he immediately accelerated out front and held his lead throughout. He absolutely flew through the final 400 meters, holding off Half Moon Bay’s Marshall in second and Carlmont’s Johain Ounadjela in third who each finished less than two seconds back of the leader.
The 800 is a different story though. Castro holds the top time in CCS in the event this season with a time of 1:55.54. His top two rivals in CCS appear to be St. Francis’ Gabriel MacLarnan, who recently matched Gabriel’s time of 1:55.54 and Woodside Priory’s Ross Corey at 1:56.17. But Saturday, Castro showed he can obliterate the field head-to-head, finishing over four seconds ahead of M-A’s Adam Scandlyn, who took second place with a time of 2:00.56.
“I’m kind of used to running by myself,” Castro said after the win.
That’s good, because once he steps onto the track, Castro is in a class by himself.