NEWPORT – Aaron Castle’s introduction to the shot put and discus in a sixth-grade track fair wasn’t necessarily the inspiration that would launch him toward an NCAA Division I scholarship someday.
Any good story like Castle’s, though, usually has a humble beginning.
Castle, a senior at Newport, did four events that spring day – the shot, discus, javelin and 200 meters.
“It’s the first I had ever seen track events,” Castle said.
Castle took fourth in the discus with a throw of 34 feet and finished sixth in the 200, finishing in 45 seconds. He didn’t place in the javelin or the implement that would become his favorite if not his best, the shot.
Sometime between the seventh and eighth grades, Castle’s father bought his son an 8-pound shot – 4 pounds lighter than ones used in high school.
“I threw it in the driveway. I put in a lot of reps,” Castle said.
The work paid off by the end of his eighth-grade track season when he hit the 40-foot barrier. That’s when his love for the throws began to blossom.
In the coming weeks, Castle hopes to toss the shot more than 70 feet – which would be farther than the all-time best in Washington – and heave the discus more than 190.
Sizeable goals for a sizeable thrower. Castle stands 6-foot-5 ½ and 280 pounds.
His throws coach believes the numbers are more than attainable. Bill Burnett wouldn’t be surprised if Castle’s personal best in the discus pushes 200.
“He had one the other day that was more than 190 in practice,” Burnett said. “He’s also thrown 70 in practice in the shot.”
Castle exceeded his personal best in late March, throwing 64-7 and extending his record by 15 inches.
“I threw that in 35 degrees. It was awful,” Castle said.
Castle put his name on the college recruiting radar last spring when he captured a State 1A championship in the shot, breaking the classification record (63-3). He took second in the discus.
Not long after state, college coaches started calling. He was offered scholarships at the University of Arizona, Ohio State and Stanford, and he visited all three schools.
He chose Arizona, where a combination of athletic and academic scholarships means he won’t have to pay a penny for college. He has a 3.9 grade-point average and scored 2,030 out of 2,400 on a college-entrance test.
“I liked Ohio State, I liked the team and coach, but I couldn’t see myself living there for the next four or five years,” Castle said. “It was too far from home. At Stanford, the culture was a little too different for my taste. I’m a country boy. I saw Arizona as a place I could be successful. The coach there really knows what he’s talking about. He’s had some high-caliber athletes. I watched a practice and I was impressed with the work ethic.”
Castle is looking forward to the year-round warmth at Arizona.
“It’s better than the three seasons of winter we have up here,” Castle said.
Castle gravitated slowly toward athletics largely because his parents weren’t athletes and it wasn’t something pushed by them.
He played soccer and T-Ball when he was younger, but only because his friends did. He wrestled 1 1/2 years at Newport before dropping the sport and was a starting lineman in football for two years. He didn’t turn out this year because he needed to have minor foot surgery and wanted to spend his time in the fall and winter conditioning for track.
“I’ve been around better athletes, but I’ve never been around an athlete as good as him that has his work ethic,” Burnett said. “What he does he does to the best of his ability.”
“I’m not the most talented kid, but I’d say I’m one of the hardest workers,” he said.
Castle would like to break the all-time Washington record (69-11), set by Vince Goldsmith of Mt. Tahoma in 1977. Castle is ranked eighth on the all-time list.
“I watched the video of my 64-7 and I see a lot of things I can work on,” Castle said. “I don’t feel like I’ve maxed out at all. I just have to be patient. It’s not something you can force. It has to feel effortless.”
Castle will return to the Pasco Invite on Saturday to defend his title in the shot put.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if I threw 70 at Pasco,” Castle said. “I’ve got a 70-footer in me.”
Burnett agrees. He extended the length of Newport’s shot put pit by 11 feet to 74 this spring.
“I hope he proves it’s too small,” Burnett said.