Skip to main content

Legendary ASU track & field coach Senon 'Baldy' Castillo passes

January 31, 2009

Senon `Baldy' Castillo, one of the most respected coaches in his profession and the head coach of the Arizona State University track and field program for nearly three decades, passed away at his home in Phoenix on Saturday, January 31. Castillo, who turned 90 on January 19, was at home with his family at the time of his passing.

"I feel Baldy really signified not only the golden-era of ASU track and field, but also the golden-era of Arizona State Athletics and he will be sorely missed," Greg Kraft, Director of Track & Field at ASU, said. "It was coaches like Baldy and Coach [Frank] Kush and Coach [Ned] Wulk that really made Arizona State athletics attractive to the Pac-10 and, without coaches like Baldy, we wouldn't have been able to make that transition into the programs we are today. Obviously, you can't exaggerate the importance he had on not only the Arizona State track and field program, but the athletic department as a whole. We certainly have lost a true legend of the sport. He will certainly be missed by the entire Sun Devil family."

The leader of the Sun Devils for 29 years (1949-82), Castillo led his squad to the 1977 NCAA Outdoor Championship, the only national men's team title in program history until the 2008 Sun Devils captured their crown. Known to lead his student-athletes with a low pressure approach, his athletes collected 10 individual NCAA titles and 34 All-America accolades on the national scene before competing on the international scene and collecting 13 Olympic medals. Castillo saw 24 of his athletes compete in eight Summer Olympiads and collect seven gold medals, including both Ulis Williams and Henry Carr running on the winning 4x400m relay.

A United States Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame Inductee in 2000, Castillo's group of sprinters, also known as `Baldy's Blazers', made a name for themselves throughout his tenure. His 4x400m relay of Williams, Carr, Ron Freeman and Mike Barrick combined to run 3:04.5 in 1963 and set the world record. Freeman, like Williams and Carr, would go on to add a gold medal in the 4x400m relay at the 1968 Olympic Games.

The 1977 season was perhaps his greatest in Tempe as the sprinters once again torched the track. That year, the Sun Devils captured their first national team title and saw nine athletes combine to collect seven individual All-American honors and two more in the relays. Herman Frazier won the 400m dash and Kyle Arney was the national champion in the high jump while the 4x100m and 4x400m relays both took national runner-up honors. The Sun Devils also added runner-up finishes in the 200m dash and the 110m high hurdles.

Prior to their championship run, the Castillo's sprinters made a name for themselves at the 1977 Penn Relays as all 11 Sun Devils that entered the prestigious meet returned to Tempe with a first place watch around their wrists. At that meet, ASU captured all three sprint relays and added another five individual event titles.

Castillo's knowledge of the sport did not stop on the track, however. Described by many as a dedicated field event technician, Castillo worked with four Olympic javelin throwers, including Mark Murro, who set the American record in the event with a toss of 300-feet, a record that stood for more than one decade.

Details of service arrangements are forthcoming.