Alberto Castillo will be offering support to his Bogota teammates at Saturday’s meet. The Bogota junior runner was expected to be one of the Bucs’ key pack runners this boys cross-country season. He had put in a lot of time and miles running on River Road during the summer and his times were falling. Now, Castillo is just happy to be up and walking around and able to support his teammates at the Lou Molino Bergen Meet of Champions on Saturday. “I was lucky,” said Castillo at his home recently. “It could have been a lot worse.” The 16-year-old woke up for school Sept. 16 with a headache and took pain medicine. He went to school, but began to feel dizzy and weak on his left side. He called his mother to come bring him home. “I was getting unsteady when I was walking,” he remembered. At first, his mother thought he just might be tired. He had run seven miles  the day before, but then Castillo began to get sick to his stomach. Thinking it might be food poisoning, his mother brought him to the doctor and then the hospital. A CT scan discovered a blood clot in his cerebellum in his brain. Castillo, an athletic, friendly-to-a-fault, active, intent, curious young man had suffered a mild stroke. “I was in shock when I heard he had a stroke,” said Bogota cross-country coach Jay Mahoney. “I just could not believe it. It was crazy. I give the kids credit. They went to the hospital. They stayed positive. They made the best of a bad situation. I think that helped him.” “We prayed and we believed he would be safe,” said Castillo’s mother, Patricia. “We found out [had we waited] a couple of hours later, something [worse] could have happened. He would not be here, or he would be paralyzed.” Castillo hasn’t been back to school since. He spent a week in the hospital, and then was in a wheelchair for a while. He continues to undergo physical and occupational therapy and get his strength back. He has no idea what could have caused the clot to form, but says the paralysis was “scary.” Born to parents from the Dominican Republic, Castillo wasn’t into sports growing up. He played baseball, but that was about it. When he got to Bogota, he played basketball in school, but wanted to go out for the track team with his friends. As a freshman, he ran the mile and two mile. That sparked an interest in running and he decided to try cross-country as a sophomore. His times? Not great, he says. Over the summer, he was determined to reach his potential. He and his teammates, Chris Rivera, Quinn Geraghty and Mike Gioiosa would get to together for daily runs. Castillo said he had dropped three minutes from his 3.1-mile time from that training. Mahoney was getting excited to see him blossom as a junior. “He is such a nice kid, if anything, I almost wanted him to be tougher when he ran,” said Mahoney. Strokes in a child are something Mahoney is familiar with. His son, Kyle, had multiple strokes because of hydrocephalus, more commonly known as “water on the brain.” Kyle is now a runner for Ramapo College. If ever there is someone for Castillo to model himself after, it could be Kyle. Castillo came to the Bucs’ dual meet with Palisades Park earlier this month and was at the NJIC Championships. “My first reaction was, ‘Wow, he is standing and walking,’ ” said Mahoney. “From texting him, I at least thought he would be using a cane. He looked terrific and having seen him again lately, [I know] he is going to run again.” “I promise he is going to beat this thing,” Patricia said. “We think he is going to be even better. It’s just going to take a little while.” Castillo has already done some light jogging as part of his physical therapy. He takes aspirin now, but that’s about it. The clot dissolved. He believes he will be able to run track this spring. “Running is something I did every day,” Castillo said. “It was a big part of my life and it’s something I want to get back to.”