Speedy sophomore stands out from the crowd

Sophomore Sofia Castiglioni runs to a 3rd place finish at last year's Sac-Joaquin Section Championships
Sophomore Sofia Castiglioni runs to a 3rd place finish at last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Championships

By Willa Moffatt,
Bluedevilhub.com Staff–

As she raced across the finish line to complete her fourth lap at the 2013 YCAL track 1600 meter championships, Sofia Castiglioni felt a wave of satisfaction with her performance, and was eager to know if she had beaten her personal record. But when she turned to the timers, they looked confused.

“Keep going, keep going, you’re almost done,” they urged. “Just one more lap!”

“No, I’m done! What’s my time? Stop the timer, I’m done!” Castiglioni replied. She looked behind her to see several other girls just beginning their fourth lap, and realization swept over her.

“No. I am done. I’ve run all four laps.”

The timers finally understood. The Harper Junior High eighth grader was ahead of the other girls by a full lap.

Castiglioni is now a sophomore at Davis High whose talent for distance running has helped her become the second-fastest varsity runner on the Davis women’s cross-country team, behind teammate Fiona O’Keeffe (currently ranked the number one fastest in the nation).

Castiglioni was born in Alzano Lombardo, Bergamo, Italy in 1999, but she and her family moved to Rhode Island when she was just three months old.

Even though she no longer lives in Italy, Castiglioni still feels connected to her Italian heritage.

“[My family and I] go back and visit often so I have lots of good memories from our trips. We still have a lot of Italian traditions, we speak Italian at home and a lot of the things that we do have an Italian background,” Castiglioni said.

In December of 2007, Castiglioni moved to Davis, in the middle of third grade.

Castiglioni finished elementary school at Montgomery, where she first began running in a club after school. Castiglioni also ran a few local races like the Davis Turkey Trot.

However, it was in her seventh and eighth grade years when Castiglioni joined the Harper cross-country and track teams that she truly discovered her talent as a runner. “I was placing [in races] so I thought, hey, this is enjoyable, I’ll try this,” Castiglioni said.

And according to her mother Alessandra Castiglioni, running, well, runs in the family. “Running comes from her father’s side of the family–her dad is an ultra marathon runner. […] It’s just part of her,” Alessandra said.

Junior high was also when DHS cross-country coach Bill Gregg learned of her abilities.

Castiglioni joined the high school cross-country team as a freshman, and “pretty early in the season of her 9th grade year it was pretty clear she was a very talented runner,” Gregg said.

“I think over time she is discovering that she really likes this sport and she could be really good at it,” Gregg said.

Castiglioni feels the same. “I enjoy racing; I always strive to try to do better and to beat last year’s times,” she said.

However, Castiglioni enjoys running for more than just the competition.

“I think [cross country] is the most fun sports team I have ever been on […] Most people think, ‘Why is high school cross country fun, all you do is run,’ and I honestly don’t know how to explain; just all the team bonding, all the activities we do, and being able to run with people and de-stress for two hours every day is really nice,” Castiglioni said.

Like Castiglioni, her women’s varsity teammates also enjoy the social aspect of the team.

Castiglioni and her teammates meet with coach Bill Gregg during the 2014 Stanford Invitational meet.
Castiglioni and her teammates meet with coach Bill Gregg during the 2014 Stanford Invitational meet.  Courtesy photo by Beth McManis.

“She’s very sweet […] she’s really intellectual, but she’s also really fun, and she brings a lot of vibrance to the group especially because Fiona and I don’t talk that much so she brings the conversation in,” senior Maggie McManis said.

McManis also admires Castiglioni’s attitude towards races.

“She can be naive which is a good thing […] because she doesn’t realize how good she is and how good our team is, so she goes into the race kind of whimsically […] and just gets the job done,” McManis said

Running is not Castiglioni’s only activity; swimming with the Davis Aquadarts is another way for her to stay active during the off season. “[Swimming] really helps strengthen muscles that don’t get used while running that are still important,” Castiglioni said.

Because of her experience with swimming, Castiglioni has been a Summerdarts coach for the past two summers.

“She is an outstanding coach–one of my best. She is great with younger kids; very kind and patient, and also very organized and keeps her swimmers under control […] She is a natural teacher,” Carolee Gregg, Castiglioni’s employer and swim coach said.

Castiglioni does not just strive to achieve in athletics, but in academics as well.

“I like math and science a lot more than I do English and history; I might be influenced by my parents in that,” Castiglioni said. “I knew I wanted to go into a science field once I was chosen for a camp called Tech Trek about STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics].”

Castiglioni would like to become an emergency room doctor  because it’s a profession that involves “lots of adrenaline.”

Music plays another important role in her life.

“I joined the school orchestra in the fourth grade,” Castiglioni said. “I wanted to do violin because my cousin plays violin, and I’ve just been continuing and I’ve really enjoyed it because it’s different from the other classes […] it’s not easy being in the high school symphony; the music is pretty hard but it’s very enjoyable.”

Juggling all her activities and responsibilities is just part of life for Castiglioni. “Practice time [for violin] definitely does [conflict with running], but usually the concerts I can manage to find a way around,” she said.

With all of her talents, Castiglioni has plenty to look forward to in the future, especially regarding her running.

Cross-country coach Gregg works with her to become a little more competitive in meets when she is right next to another runner.

“What she did [at the Nov. 1 Delta League Championships] was another giant step; it wasn’t about the time, it was ‘I’m going to race this girl from St. Francis and beat her,” Gregg said.

McManis believes that Castiglioni (15th in the state last year) has a lot of potential.

“I think she can be top 10 in the state […] with a little development and age and maturity she could be pretty close to Fiona in my opinion,” McManis said.

Senior Jeanne-Marie McPherson agrees.

“She has a ton of God-given skill and a really good work ethic so it makes a good pair of qualities,” McPherson said. “She has really good drive so I definitely think she’s going to do really well running- and school-wise.”

Castiglioni always tries to push herself to be a better runner.

“It’s really nice to have Fiona, who’s so much faster, because it always gives you something to look up to. You never get cocky because there’s always someone that’s better. I want to run in college, but I don’t even think about that,” Castiglioni said.

Now on her second year of running varsity cross-country, Castiglioni looks to encourage others who want to run.

“I want freshmen to see they can still be varsity even if they aren’t […] their first year, that they can get better and be on varsity,” Castiglioni said.

Along with her teammates, Castiglioni will be competing at the CIF State Cross Country Championships on Nov. 29 in Clovis, where the women’s varsity hopes to defend its 2nd place finish from 2013.

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