Injury prevented Barkley Castro, the reigning girls Class AAA 800-meter state champion, from beginning this track season at peak form, but with each meet the Generals senior continues to reach higher toward her goals.
Castro won the 800 last season by defeating her closest competitor by nearly three seconds, and sustained that success during the fall cross country season before enduring injury. Castro will continue her quest in defense of her title as the Generals host the 25th annual Winfield Classic today, and she said she thinks there’s enough time in the season to realize her potential.
“That’s the plan, and that’s what my coaches tell me, so it should happen,” Castro said. “I’m working a lot on my speed work right now, getting my speed back under me.”
A week before the cross country state championship, Castro said she was diagnosed with Plica syndrome in her right knee.
“It’s like this thing in the knee that builds up and it kind of like pinches it, so your blood doesn’t flow right,” she said. “I got it a week before the state meet, and I didn’t want to sit it out because it was my last meet.”
Castro claimed 34th place overall in the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) race with a time of 21:17, improving from her 47th-place finish as a junior but 14 seconds slower.
Entering the track season, the injury proved difficult for Castro to handle, she said, as it prevented her from running at the levels she expected of herself.
“It’s really frustrating physically and mentally for me,” she said. “I started off taking it a little bit easy at the beginning. I go to therapy for it and I just have to modify my training for it.”
So far, Castro has ran her signature event, the 800, just once this season, finishing fourth at the BB&T Classic on April 5 against several competitors she expects to see again this season, including at the state championships.
The time (2:26.77) didn’t measure to Castro’s expectations, compared to her state title time of 2:17.57, but Winfield girls track coach David Bailey said the mark is on par with her finishes at this point in the season last year.
“She’s pretty much on schedule right now, so we’re feeling good about that,” he said.
With her finish at the BB&T Classic, Castro ranks seventh-best among AAA girls in the state for the 800 thus far this season, according to times submitted to runwv.com. Castro won the open 400 at the event, too, to earn the state’s seventh-best 400 time.
In addition to her individual events, Castro runs as a part of Winfield’s 4x400 and 4x800 relay squads, though Castro remains primarily an open 800 runner, Bailey said, as exhibited by her exceptional performance in last year’s state meet.
“She ran the first lap in 64 (seconds) and I thought ‘Oh, my goodness. She’s going to die,’ and she held on,” Bailey said. “The funny story about that is when it was all over and everything had passed, we were sitting and talking, and she sat and looked at me and said ‘Coach Bailey, do you know how bad I wanted to look behind me and see how far they were back there, because I was hurting so bad?’ We laughed about it.”
Beyond speed, Bailey said Castro possesses another characteristic important to 800 runners, tenacity.
“Mental toughness is what it takes to run that event,” he said. “That’s a tough race, a tough, tough race. Barkley’s work ethic and mental toughness makes her a good 800 runner.”
Castro attributed her 800 success to her race mentality.
“I think it’s my best, because I was always taught to run it like a 400,” she said.
Her endeavors with the cross country team also play key, Castro said.
“Cross country definitely helps a lot,” she said. “It helps a lot with my endurance, because I’m not used to the high mileage, so I definitely think it helps.”
Because of her success both on the track and in cross country, Castro signed a letter of intent to continue running at Marshall.
In the meantime, Castro remains focused on improving as the state meet approaches.
“I definitely have a lot more people to push me this year, so it should be a good race to watch at the state meet,” she said.
Work ethic should be no obstacle as Castro sets her sights statebound, Bailey said.
“She’s training hard, she’s working hard,” he said. “She’s working hard, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Castro and the eighth-ranked Generals will compete today, as will Winfield’s ninth-ranked boys team. Other schools expecting to send athletes to the meet include Hurricane (No. 4 girls, No. 6 boys), George Washington (eighth-ranked boys), St. Albans, Buffalo (second-ranked boys, Class A), Hannan, Wayne (seventh-ranked girls, AA), Mingo Central and Richwood.