Belleville’s Castano helps fellow runner in distress at Essex County meet

The Essex County cross country championships were less than half over when Belleville senior captain Dan Castano decided to make his move.

No, Castano’s move had nothing to do with the outcome of the race. But it had everything to do with what kind of kid Castano is.

While getting himself into position to finish the county meet, Castano noticed an event happening in front of him. Bloomfield runner Adam Mahabub collapsed and fell to the ground.

“It was about a mile into the race and he was moving well in front of me,” Castano said. “Then, all of a sudden, he was down on the ground.”

While hundreds of runners jogged past the fallen Mahabub on the ground, Castano decided to stop and help the fallen runner.

“It’s just my instinct to stop,” Castano said. “I saw all these runners passing him and no one was stopping to help him. It didn’t even come to mind that I had to finish the race.”

It also didn’t come to Castano’s mind that it was the second to last race of his high school career.

“I’ll still be running someday,” Castano said. “I didn’t know how hurt he was.”

Mahabub’s response was typical of any runner.

“He said, ‘Don’t stop because of me,’” Castano said. “He said he was ok. But I could see he was having trouble breathing and was dizzy. I just had to stop and go help him. I had to make sure he was okay.”

Castano would like to pursue a career in athletic training, so stopping to help an injured athlete is right down his alley. But one in the same race? From the neighboring rival school?

“It’s just what I had to do,” Castano said. “I had to make sure.”

So after a few minutes, Castano asked Mahabub to breathe slowly and cautiously. He then helped Mahabub to his feet and the two continued on, with Mahabub’s arm around Castano’s shoulder for support.

“I walked him to the finish line,” Castano said. “We both walked together to the finish line. I wanted to help him to get there. He put his arm around my neck and I held him around the waist with the other hand until we got a trainer to come and assist him.”

As it turned out, Mahabub was alright. He was examined by medical personnel and was able to continue with the rest of his day.

Neither runner was able to claim a county title. Neither was in contention.

But Castano’s incredible gesture of selflessness did not go unnoticed.

“This behavior is a symbol of our team as a whole,” Belleville head coach Nick Campione said. “I am so thankful to Dan for helping the athlete out. Dan showed the well-being of another runner was more important to him than his own race.”

Bloomfield athletic director Steve Jenkins sent out a county-wide e-mail, thanking Castano for his act of generosity.

“A young man from Belleville, Dan Castano, went above and beyond,” Jenkins wrote. “One of our young men, Adam Mahabub, fell down and could not continue. Dan stopped running and walked our athlete to the finish line area. Dan is a senior at Belleville HS and was running in the penultimate race of his career. Selflessness and sportsmanship like this is sometimes hard to find, but it’s the expectation at Belleville and the SEC. Bloomfield High School wishes to recognize and thank this young man and the entire Belleville program.”

Belleville athletic director Dan Sanacore echoed Jenkins’ sentiments.

“This is what Belleville athletics is all about,” Sanacore said. “We could not be more proud. Any accolades that Dan receives are all well deserved.”

Castano said that he met with the Jenkins and Bloomfield High School Principal Chris Jennings after the race.

“They congratulated me in person,” Castano said. “That meant a lot to me. I really wasn’t expecting this much attention. I think this is something anyone would do.”
Incredibly, Castano has not met with Mahabub since the race.

“It’s fine,” Castano said. “We share the same passion for running. Nothing else matters. If you fall, I’m there to pick you up. That’s what I do. I can’t believe no one else helped him up. It’s something I think about. Suppose I didn’t stop. What would have happened? I just happened to be there.”

Castano has not made up his mind about college, but he wants to become either a physical therapist or an athletic trainer.

“I guess I’m well on my way,” said Castano, whose cross country career ended last Saturday at the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group III championships at Garret Mountain, where Castano finished in 20:20.

“I know I did my best out there,” Castano said. “That’s all that matters.”

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”