The St. Clairsville pipeline of Division I talent is flowing once again.
Lady Red Devils' track and cross country standout Amy Castle signed her National Letter of Intent to continue her running and academic careers at UNC-Asheville.
Castle's decision boiled down to the connection she formed with the Asheville coaches and team during her visit in the middle of January.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE senior Amy Castle (front row, center) signed her national letter of intent to continue her track and cross country careers at the UNC-Asheville. She’s flanked by her head track coach Ben Frye (left) and her father, Dr. David Castle (right).?Standing, from left, are St. C. High Athletic Director Kelly Rine and St. Clairsville Superintendent/Principal Walt Skaggs.
"The coach at Asheville really reminded me of Coach (Tony) Ciroli and that connection was important to me," Castle said during her signing ceremony at St. C.'s Administrative office. "The team was amazing. All of the girls were friendly, welcoming and North Carolina itself is a beautiful state. I just thought it was good fit for me."
When Castle's high school career began, many would have surmised that if she were going to play a sport at the collegiate level, it probably would have been soccer.
She actually decided to attend St. Clairsville because it offered a soccer program. She lettered and was a key contributor as a freshman. However, she was doubling up in the fall that year and ran on the cross country team, which eventually finished as state runnerup, as well.
After that season, though, she realized that she loved running.
"I thought soccer was going to be my sport for a really long time," Castle admitted. "I just chose what I enjoyed more and that was running. With soccer, I was traveling everywhere and was exhausted all the time, so I decided that running would be best for me."
Castle hasn't looked back since that decision.
Since making the decision to fully pursue running, Castle had other hurdles to clear. She's battled mono and a back problem.
"My high school career has been one heck of a trip," Castle said. "I am hoping for a strong senior season and hope I can avoid any bad luck in terms of health."
In cross country, Castle is a four-time all-district performer and took part in three Division II state meets. She helped lead St. C. to four consecutive OVAC team titles and was the Class 4A champion as a junior.
This past season, Castle battled through an illness to still compete at the OVAC, which proved large for the Lady Devils' four-peat quest. She was an all-conference performer her prior three seasons. She also won two Buckeye 8 crowns and four straight team titles.
On the track, Castle has taken part in the state track meet twice, running on a 4x800 squad in 2011 and last June she qualified in the 3200 meters. She was district champion in the 3200 last season as well. She also advanced to the regional in the 1600.
"Amy's been at it for as long as I can remember and now her hard work is paying off for her," said St. C. head track coach Ben Frye. "She deserves this opportunity and Asheville is certainly lucky to be getting her."
This spring, Castle is hoping to set personal best times in her specialties the 1600 and 3200 meter runs.
"I also want to set a good basis for my college training because things are going to get really intense," Castle said.
Castle owns personal best times of 2:22.64 in the 800, 5:09.16 in the 1600, 11:21.67 in the 3200 and 18:45 in the 5000.
While St. C. has been seemingly producing a Division I signee one right after another, the Red Devils' running program has now sent a competitor to Asheville each of the past two seasons.
Andy Thornburg is currently in his freshman season with the Bulldogs' track program.
Before settling on Asheville, Castle had seriously considered Butler University in Indianapolis.
"The decision became pretty clear where I should go once I visited Asheville, though," Castle said.
Early on in the process, she also considered Akron University where her older sister, Jennie, competed after an 800-meter, state-championship winning career at Barnesville.
"I definitely looked up to Jennie," Castle said. "She's been my biggest role model for basically my entire track and cross country careers. I talked to her every night about this process and just bounced things off of her."
While Jennie was more of a speedster, for Amy, it's the longer the race, the better.
"I think I am going to be a 5 and 10K person," Castle said. "I do not have the foot speed for the 400, 800 or even the 1,500."
Castle is also a standout in the classroom at St. C. She's ranked in the top 10 of the senior class, carries a 4.0 grade point average and also takes four classes at Ohio University Eastern as part of the post-secondary option.
Castle is a member of the National Honor Society, Student Council secretary and serves on the Student Action Committee.
Amy, who is the daughter of Dr. David and Bobbi Castle of Barnesville, is undecided about her major.
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com