Whether it’s softball, tennis, track and field, boxing or karate, whenever Jiselle Castano steps onto the field or into the ring, she’s been pretty successful.
Castano was an honorable-mention York-Adams League Class 3-A all-star selection in tennis last season.
She placed at the Y-A Track and Field Championships in the discus and shot put.
She competed out of the state and out of the country in boxing and karate, respectively, when she was younger.
And she was a Y-A Division I first-team all-star in softball last season.
“People say that,” Castano said of her ability to seemingly excel at any sport she tries. “Whatever I do, love doing it and I put my mind to it and (ask) ‘What’s the point of doing it if I don’t like it?’ So, I put 110% into it.”
All the athletic achievements that the 16-year-old Northeastern High School junior has racked up to this point have been for a reason. Her plan to make an impact on as many people as she can begins with success on the softball field.
So that’s why, when the Bobcats' 5-foot, 8-inch standout utility player got an offer to play NCAA Division I softball for Army, there was no need to wait more than a few days to make it official and commit.
“It’s not just about softball. It’s not just about the academics; it’s the whole package,” Castano said her decision to commit to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York. “After those four years, especially for the sport of softball, there’s not a big percentage that you’re going to end up going pro. I know that this will help me get to a certain aspect of my life. I know I’m destined to reach more people and I know this will help me get to that.”
A family bond: Castano’s pursuit of a career in the military came largely because of her father’s time as a soldier. Castano said her father, Mauricio, was involved in an incident when an improvised explosive device went off while he was deployed. He survived the explosion and Castano said the stories he told about the bonds he had in the military inspired her to follow a similar path.
“Since my brothers and I were young, he has instilled that we need to take hold of our future,” Castano said. “If we want to achieve something, we have to take it into our own hands and reach for that. He was proud that I’ve taken hold of my future.”
Northeastern softball coach Dave Marsh said Castano stood out compared to most freshmen he meets for the first time. Besides her athletic ability, Marsh said Castano carried herself differently and knew early on what she intended to do with her future.
“Your ears kind of perk up and you’re like, 'wow this is definitely someone who is different,'” Marsh said. “You don’t usually hear the kids talk about things like that, especially not a freshman. Seeing all the different things she’s involved in on and off the fields just lets you see the powerful and significant person she is going to become.”
A unique visit: Castano took an official visit to West Point a few weeks ago and knew days later it was the right fit for her. This wasn’t the average college visit though. The itinerary included sleeping in the barracks, lunch in the mess hall and a trip to a shooting simulator, which included firing a machine gun.
Once everything was official, and she received an email that she had the offer, the only thing left for Castano to do was to call her parents and celebrate.
“I was just so excited for what my future holds,” Castano said. “I have always seen myself doing this, but now it became a reality. I was just ecstatic and so excited.”
Following her plan: With her college decision out of the way, Castano’s focus is getting stronger in preparation for the level of fitness required to be admitted into her program.
That shouldn’t be too hard for Castano, who achieved a black belt in karate before she turned 13 and boxes during the offseason to prepare for softball.
While in Amsterdam for a karate tournament at about age 10 or 11, Castano said she faced a 19-year-old woman in a sparring session and her ribs were broken, ending her karate career.
“It taught me to take some hits,” Castano said. “It’s going to hurt and you have to physically and mentally get over that and realize I still have to continue to do what I said I was going to do.”
What she wants to do is pursue is foreign policy and potentially join a government agency such as the CIA. She’s not sure how or when, but Castano knows she has something to give to the world.
Softball has given her the ticket to begin the next stage of her life, and the hours of training and studying continue to prepare her for the opportunity when it comes.
“I think I’m going to make an impact when I’m older, I just don’t know in what or what aspect of my life I’m going to do it,” Castano said. “I realize that all these steps — all these constant practices, staying (up) late at night, continuing to work on my homework — this is all for a reason. I’m going to figure that out later on, but there’s something deep within me that I know I have something impactful within me.”
Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.