Jaylen Castillo made a decision which was a long time coming. Castillo, a senior at Fishers High School and a lifelong IU super-fan, committed to IU on Sept. 23.
Castillo wasn’t always a great runner. As a kid he played basketball and football, and track and cross-country were just hobbies. But in eighth grade, he ran cross-country and ended up placing ninth at state.
“After that, I was like, ‘Whoa, I'm actually kind of good at this.’ And then I just pursued it from there,” Castillo said.
He couldn’t have pursued cross-country without the help of Ethan Meyer, a freshman runner at IU and Castillo’s former teammate at Fishers. It was Meyer who he looked up to, who he ran with and who pushed him to get better.
“I really looked up to Ethan, and I told myself I was gonna do everything he does and run with him and try to keep up with him,” Castillo said. “I committed myself to run with him every day, and come track season I ran crazy times, stuff I couldn't have imagined. He had a big impact on me.”
While Castillo said he owes much of his success to Meyer, his work ethic is unmatched. A seven-mile run Castillo plainly called “easy” is just constant in his daily routine. His passion for running and drive to push himself to shave valuable seconds off his times are why he is one of the top runners in the state, with running times for the 5k consistently in the 15:40 range.
Hunter Christ and Drew Smith, freshmen runners at Purdue and former teammates of Castillo, noticed his work ethic from the time they first met him.
“Jaylen is one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever met,” Christ said. “During our runs together if we were ever short on mileage he would run around the parking lot until he finished his mileage instead of being .08 miles short.”
When it came time for his recruitment, many of the big names in running including the University of North Carolina, University of Alabama, Baylor University, Michigan and Purdue all showed interest. Castillo said as a result of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a five-star review from Meyer of IU’s coaching staff, he decided to stay home and commit to his self-described “dream school.”
“Growing up I have always been a really big IU fan, and I think it just took the call from Coach [Andrew] Poore, the assistant, for me to realize, this is really where I want to go,” Castillo said. “Ethan Meyer played a big role in why I got fast and he seems pretty successful at IU, so I think I can just follow his footsteps and continue to thrive.”
Though the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out any ability for Castillo to have an official visit and meet the coaches face to face, a couple of unofficial trips to Bloomington and several Zoom calls with the coaching staff made him feel comfortable enough to make his decision to commit.
But before Castillo steps onto IU’s campus next fall, he is still focused on improvement and achieving the goals he’s set for himself in high school.
“I really want to make all-state, because I have never been a cross-country guy but I have really started to get the hang of it,” Castillo said. “I really want to run 15:40 or sub-15:40. This is one of the most competitive years ever for Indiana cross country, it is really open and there is no clear frontrunner. Our team is really healthy and really solid and we want to win state.”