Taking the baton from senior teammate Sean Cummings to run the final leg of the 4-by-400-meter relay on Saturday afternoon, Philomath High sophomore Brody Bushnell had some ground to make up with the Warriors sitting in third place.
Bushnell breezed past the team that was in second and set his sights on frontrunner Hidden Valley. Senior Asa Marwick was running the anchor leg for the Mustangs.
“He had quite a gap to make up but fortunately the guy that was anchoring for Hidden Valley is someone he beat in the 800, so he knew he was faster than him,” PHS coach Joe Fulton said. “It was just a matter of closing the gap. He was methodical about it.”
In a previous race against Hidden Valley and the same runner, Fulton said Bushnell had been overanxious, took the lead within the first 100 meters and had to hold him off at the end.
“But this time, he paced himself and just slowly but surely closed the gap until he came off the final turn,” Fulton said, “and then he just blew him away.”
Bushnell finished with a 50.51-second split. Philomath’s time of 3:29.56 was nearly a full second ahead of runner-up Hidden Valley as the Warriors finished the 4A State Track and Field Championships at Siuslaw High in Florence in dramatic fashion. Philomath placed fourth in the team standings, just five points out of second and only a half-point out of third.
In addition to Cummings and Bushnell, the winning 4-by-400 included seniors Levi Knutson and Justin Enghauser.
Bushnell was Philomath’s star of the meet with two individual victories as well. He won the 800 in 1:59.17 — the only Class 4A runner to break 2 minutes in the event this season, which he did three times — and the 1,500 in 4:04.02 by more than 3 seconds ahead of the runner-up.
In the 1,500, North Valley senior Patrick Clayburn came out fast from the start.
“He kinda forced Brody’s hand to make sure he didn’t get too far ahead and run away from it,” Fulton said. “So Brody moved into second before the end of the first lap and then just slowly reeled him in over the next lap and a half and that guy ended up finishing seventh.”
It’s an example of Bushnell’s ability to run smart.
“Brody can strategize very well and he can also improvise when the need calls,” he said.
In the 800, Fulton said there was a little concern that it would also feature a fast start. As it turned out, the first lap of the 800 had about the same pace as the first lap in the 1,500. It all worked to Bushnell’s advantage.
“So he didn’t need to go out hard; he just hung back in the pack and just set everybody up, just kept within enough contact so that when he did start his kick, he would be confident that he could go by everybody,” Fulton said. “The guys in front of him are guys he’d raced before and outkicked so he felt pretty good about staying where he was.”
Bushnell’s time was 1.45 seconds ahead of the runner-up.
“He runs like a senior, he’s very strong and he works hard,” Fulton said. “It was an interesting conclusion because he was getting a little frustrated early on in cross-country because he was getting beat occasionally and not running the kind of times he was expecting to. But I knew it was a long season since we had to combine cross-country and track and that he just needed to be patient and it would all pay off at the end of the track season. And it sure did.”
Bushnell’s endurance played a role in the strong finish.
“I think some of them are just worn out but Brody seemed to be quite durable and kept getting better and better,” Fulton said, mentioning some of Bushnell’s top rivals on the course and track. “But he does need a break — he’s raced 24 times since March 4.”
Elsewhere, Philomath sophomore Micah Matthews placed in two events with a strong third in the 110-meter high hurdles and tied for eighth in the pole vault.
“He’s learning a lot of different events because he wants to be a decathlete,” Fulton said. “But it looks like the hurdles are going to be his best area. Next year, we’ll have him working more on the 300 hurdles because he should be able contend in both hurdle races at state.”
Matthews came in with a time of 16.32 seconds in the hurdles and cleared 11 feet in the pole vault. He also qualified in the high jump but didn’t make the opening height of 5-8. Across the board for both the boys and girls, the high jumpers were having problems because of windy conditions at the track.
In the open 400, Cummings placed fourth in 52.98, missing third place by a hair with a Newport runner leaning at the finish. Sophomore Mateo Candanoza on Friday placed fifth in a fast 3,000 in 8:59.53.
“He finished fifth and they were all seniors ahead of him,” Fulton said. “He broke 9 minutes and that’s only been done nine times by Philomath runners.”
Knutson finished eighth in the 800 with a time of 2:06.09.
Hidden Valley easily took first place in the team standings with 77 points but it was a tight battle for second. Newport got the nod with 52 points, Henley was third with 47 and Philomath fourth with 46.5.
“The three big point-getters for us were all sophomores; they scored the lion’s share of our points,” Fulton said. “So we look good for next year because Hidden Valley had a lot of seniors on their team and so did Newport. Henley looks like they’ve got some kids back but we really should’ve beaten Henley — we only lost to them by a half of a point and our senior boys know where those half-points could’ve come from.”
Fulton commended organizers of the 4A championships, saying the meet was done “very professionally and was an excellent show.”
4A State Track and Field Championships
Friday, May 21-Saturday, May 22, at Siuslaw HS, Florence
|1, Hidden Valley 77; 2, Newport 52; 3, Henley 47; 4, Philomath 46.5; 5, Sisters 40; 6, Siuslaw 37.5; 7, Cascade 37; 8, Mazama 31; 8, Astoria 31; 10, Sweet Home 27; 11, North Valley 26; 12, Marshfield 21.5; 13, La Grande 19; 14, North Marion 18.5; 15, Cottage Grove 18; 16, Estacada 15; 17, Gladstone 14; 17, Elmira 14; 19, Madras 11; 19, Valley Catholic 11; 21, Banks 10; 22, Tillamook 8; 22, Junction City 8; 22, Phoenix 8; 22, Baker 8; 26, Molalla 7; 27, Stayton 6; 28, McLoughlin 5; 29, Ontario 4; 30, Klamath Union 1; 30, Woodburn 1.|
Winners & PHS Results
|1. Ashton Williams, Cascade, 11.19|
|1. Jeremiah Noga, Hidden Valley, 22.47|
|1. Jeremiah Noga, Hidden Valley, 50.00|
|4. Sean Cummings, Philomath, 52.98|
|1. Brody Bushnell, Philomath, 1:59.17|
|8. Levi Knutson, Philomath, 2:06.09|
|1. Brody Bushnell, Philomath, 4:04.02|
|1. Ethan Hosang, Sisters, 8:44.39|
|5. Mateo Candanoza, Philomath, 8:59.53|
|1. Gabriel Buchfield, Hidden Valley, 15.85|
|3. Micah Matthews, Philomath, 16.32|
|1. Payton Cunningham, Newport, 40.85|
|1. Mazama (Eryk Mayes, Brandon Gailey, Cole Brosterhouse, Aidan Kindt), 43.58|
|1. Philomath (Levi Knutson, Justin Enghauser, Sean Cummings, Brody Bushnell), 3:29.56|
|1. Colton McMaster, Astoria, 58-9.75|
|1. Colton McMaster, Astoria, 166-7|
|1. Tyler Manning, North Marion, 182-6|
|1. Gabriel Burchfield, Hidden Valley, 6-2|
|— Micah Matthews, Philomath, NH|
|1. Trent Summers, Marshfield, 14-10|
|T-8. Micah Matthews, Philomath, 11-0|
|1. Tristan Calkins, Sweet Home, 22-8|
|1. Eli Hayes, Henley, 43-3.5|
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