One Maize High School senior has overcome adversity and shattered the odds by competing nationally and winning 11 track and field medals. Madison Castillo’s hard work, dedication and positive outlook to overcome her disability have become an inspiration to many.
When Madison was just 9 months old, her parents, Tara and Jerrome, knew something was wrong with their little girl. After a trip to their pediatrician, the Castillo’s were told Madison had suffered a stroke.
“When Madison was born, we had some issues during delivery,” Tara Castillo says. “But it was not apparent until she wasn’t reaching developmental milestones that something was wrong. The doctor took a pencil on her foot, and it was determined that the stroke had left her right side with partial paralysis also known as hemiparesis.”
Madison had suffered a stroke during birth, but given that her Apgar scores (a testing system used to evaluate children at birth) weren’t outside normal limits, doctors did not realize she had suffered a stroke at the time.
“When she was diagnosed, we weren’t sure if she was going to be completely paralyzed. She was just too young to know,” Tara says. “Madison has busted through the parameters and overcome her disability. She is a go-getter, and she has never complained.”
Because of the stroke, Madison does not have the use of her fingers on her right hand. She also has a limp. But Madison does not allow her disability to dampen her dreams.
Today, the 18–year-old senior is a member of the high school track team, where she has won a third-place medal in long jump against other high school students without physical disabilities.
This summer, Madison participated in various track and field meets across the country. She took first place in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter runs and the long jump at the Challenge Games in Derby. Madison won a first place in the 200-meter run, second place in the 100-meter run and first place in long jump at the endeavor Games in edmond, Oklahoma. In the 2015 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships in Minnesota, Madison won a gold medal in the long jump. And in July, Madison won silver medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter runs and the gold medal in the long jump at the National Junior Disability Championships in Union County, New Jersey.
“When I look at my medals, I’m pretty proud because I know I tried my hardest and it paid off,” Madison says. “It also makes me think that all of these past track seasons at Maize High has helped me get to where I am now, and it didn’t really matter that I wasn’t winning medals at the high school level. I’m really happy I listened to Coach Handy and stuck with it.”
Says Tara: “It makes me incredibly proud to be her mom. The medals validate everything she has worked for and all she has been through. It is the biggest reward for us to see the difference in her confidence. Now, she is so much more willing to start up conversations with people. She has proven to herself. Her whole carriage and demeanor is different.”
On a personal level, Madison is a sports fan. She and her father are avid KU basketball fans, and they enjoy traveling to Lawrence together to watch KU play. Madison is close with each member of her family including her younger sister, Lacey.
“Lacey is one of her sister’s biggest supporters. She helps stretch Maddie before her runs,” Tara says. “They are very close.”
In the future Madison would like to train and earn a spot on Team USA in the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. After graduation, she plans to attend college with hopes of training and participating on a college track team.
“I would tell others to try their hardest, and when it feels too hard, keep going and never give up,” Madison says. “It has felt too hard for me a lot of times, but it didn’t stop me. Don’t look at your disability as a bad thing, and don’t let it stop you. If you do things a little different than most, it doesn’t matter as long as you do them."
Tara says the Castillo family hopes Madison’s story inspires others. “She would be so honored if she could inspire at least one person to try,” Tara says. “Madison always says, ‘The least you can do is fail.’ So, give it a go.”