2017-18 Signal Sports Awards: Female Athlete of the Year

Mariah Castillo of Saugus runs the 3200-meter run at the CIF Southern Section Masters meet at El Camino College in Torrance, Calif. on May 26. © Katharine Lotze/Special to the Signal
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Despite excelling in cross country and track and field, Saugus’ Mariah Castillo doesn’t ever seem to tire of training, competing or running.

“I never really get tired of competing and doing workouts,” Castillo said via text message. “I find it extremely fun, even when it gets tough because I can test my limits and push myself to the max. I think recovery/long runs are the only thing I get tired of, because we run basically everywhere in the Santa Clarita Valley, so it’s just the same thing each time.”

And the end result for the Centurions has been a record-breaking pace.

Setting Saugus’ records in the 800-meter, 1,200, 1,600 and 3,200-meter races, Castillo’s dedication and passion showed through this year, earning her The Signal’s 2017-18 Female Athlete of the Year award.

“I feel honored to receive this award because I put such a great effort toward my sport,” Castillo said. “To be recognized for it in such an athletically oriented and competitive town means a lot.”

Winning both the All-SCV girls cross country Runner of the Year and the All-SCV girls track and field Athlete of the Year, Castillo admits that she has changed up her pre-race routine over the years, but the results stay the same.

She still wins.

“Well, it’s changed a lot throughout the years,” Castillo said. “But this year, I would go over to my teammate’s house to have my hair braided a certain way. Then, I would go to a specific Taco Bell with (Coach) Paragas and get three hard shell tacos, and we would sit at a certain spot in the fast food place and after we were done we would head to the meet.”

Capturing the Foothill League title in girls cross country with a time of 16:56.73, Castillo set a new course record at Central Park.

Finishing second in Division 2 at the CIF-Southern Section finals and the CIF State championships, Castillo led Saugus girls cross country to a second-place podium finish, clocking in a time of 17:15.7.

Castillo qualified for the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland with her performance at state, where she placed third out of 198 competitors.

Her time was the fastest ever in Saugus’ program history and in the SCV among girls runners.

Making it to the track and field CIF state finals for the first time in her high school career, Castillo failed to make the podium in the 1,600-meter race and the 3,200.

Using the disappointment from the state meet as motivation, Castillo turned things around by placing first in the 1,600-meter race at the Brooks PR Invitational in Washington.

“It taught me that I’m not always going to have the perfect race at the right time and things happen for a reason,” Castillo said. “I shouldn’t let a bad race define me as a person or runner. I had another opportunity to show what I was made of. So when I got back to the SCV, I was dialed back in and ready to put more work in. I was able to come back from it and it was an amazing feeling.”

With a time of 4 minutes, 41.40 seconds in the 1,600-meter race, Castillo broke the Saugus and Foothill League record in the event.

“I was able to come back from a bad race at state and win the mile at Brooks,” Castillo said. “But what made it so special is that I was able to share it with the people I care so much about like my family, my best friend/ training partner and Coach Paragas. They were all at the race supporting me, and it meant so much to me.”

Recently graduating from Saugus, Castillo will continue her athletic career at Texas Christian University, where she will take it one season at a time and focus on both cross country and track and field, as she still has some goals to accomplish at the collegiate level.

“I think my main goal (at Saugus) was just to improve each and every year,” Castillo said. “I really wanted to leave my mark at Saugus and in the SCV. But, going into the season, I definitely wanted to be a state champion in cross country and track and field. The records were just something to chase after for fun. I just really enjoy competing!

“I’m really thankful to have been a part of the legacy of Saugus cross country and track, which was a pivotal part of my success. I think that I have left my mark on the Saugus and Santa Clarita running communities, and I hope to be remembered alongside the greats in their histories. My success wouldn’t have been possible without those experiences and the people that supported me.”


Inside the Ballot Box

Finalist Sport First Second Third Total
Mariah Castillo Saugus cross country/track & field 20 0 0 20
Zoe Campos West Ranch golf 0 9 0 9
Shea O’Leary Valencia softball 0 3 2 5
Talia Taufaasau Canyon girls basketball 0 0 2 2

Key: First place: 5 points, Second place: 3 points, Third place: 1 point

Past Female Athletes of the Year

2016-17 — Kayla Konrad (Valencia)

2015-16 — Elisa Pierre (Golden Valley)

2014-15 — Abbey Weitzeil (Saugus)

2013-14 — Abbey Weitzeil (Saugus)

2012-13 — Abbey Weitzeil and Samantha Ortega (Saugus)

2011-12 — Tiffini Stone (Canyon)

2010-11 — Faith Anumba (Valencia)

2009-10 — Madison Shipman (Valencia)

2008-09 — Aly Drake (Valencia)

2007-08 — No award given

2006-07 — Jordan Taylor (Valencia)

2005-06 — Shannon Murakami (Saugus)

2004-05 — Shannon Murakami (Saugus)

2003-04 — Alysia Johnson (Canyon)

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