Philomath junior Brody Bushnell outsprints Siuslaw's Raymundo Brito-Xilot to the finish line to win the 4-by-400 relay. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

When Brody Bushnell took the baton from Ben Hernandez for the final leg of the 4-by-400-meter relay at Thursday’s Philomath Invitational, it didn’t look good for the Warriors. Siuslaw had a significant lead — perhaps as much as 100 meters — with its anchor runner on the track.

Warwick and Brody Bushnell (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Bushnell went to work and quickly chased down the Siuslaw runner, catching him near the end of the backstretch. The pair came around the final turn fairly even and Bushnell outsprinted his counterpart to the finish line for a dramatic victory.

“I was trying to catch him on the backstretch and stayed right behind him on the last turn and then just outran him on the last straightaway,” Bushnell said.

Bushnell, a junior, ran a split in the neighborhood of 51 to 52 seconds.

“He doesn’t like to lose,” PHS coach Joe Fulton laughed. “It’s pretty obvious.”

Sophomore Simon King led off the relay and handed off to freshman Warwick Bushnell before Hernandez, a junior, took over for the third leg. Their time of 3:39.00 ranks as tops in the district and fourth-fastest in 4A this season.

Philomath High’s girls take 1st place at home invitational

Just three meets into their high school track and field careers, a talented group of Philomath High freshmen have shown that they will not be intimidated by the pressure of competition or the accomplishments of their older counterparts. Janice Hellesto, Natalie Dunn, Aneeka Steen, Melea Lattin and several others from the high school’s youngest class…

The strong finish helped the Warriors to second place in the team standings. Siuslaw won the eight-school meet with 170.5 points, Philomath was second at 107.5 and Cottage Grove a close third with 106.

Junior Micah Matthews has been racking up a lot of points for the Warriors so far this spring with his talents in the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, high jump and pole vault. At Thursday’s meet, he cleared 5 feet, 8 inches — not his best of the season and weather was a factor, but good enough to take first place. 

“I have a PR mark of 6 feet and the guy ahead of me had a rank of 6 feet, 2 inches, and both of us struggled with this weather,” Matthews said. “We were both slipping and had a really hard time with the wet track conditions. It was fun to jump nonetheless.”

PHS junior Micah Matthews won the high jump. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

In the closest race of the afternoon, Matthews had to settle for second place in the 110-meter high hurdles. Cottage Grove junior Tyler Russell edged him at the finish line by just one-hundredth of a second. His time of 16.69 was a season-best and within reach of his personal-record time of 16.08, which he ran on the first day of the state meet last year.

“I was very, very happy with that race … I shaved 0.3 seconds off again and it was really my first race of the season with fierce competition,” Matthews said. “Other than districts and state when it really matters, I just love the thrill of competition. I don’t need to win, I just love being in it.”

Matthews also had third-place finishes in the pole vault (11-0) and 300 hurdles (46.78).

“We need more people like Micah that can do multiple events because our boys’ team is essentially distance runners,” Fulton said. “We need some guys to step it up in the other field events but a lot of them are green, you know, and we’ve got kids that are out for the first time, seniors that are out for the first time, and once they figure it out, we’ll be OK.” 

PHS junior Mateo Candanoza won the 3,000-meter run by nearly 20 seconds. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

One of those long-distance runners on the roster is junior Mateo Candanoza and he loves running the 3,000. Candanoza took first place in the event with a time of 9:17.97. But with a margin of nearly 20 seconds over the runner-up, a senior from Siuslaw, he said he’d rather get pushed a little more and not run by himself.

Still, the time was his fastest so far this early season and it ranks as the top time among 3,000 runners in the Oregon West, No. 3 in Class 4A.

“I like having a large range to improve in,” Candanoza said. “I know I can get so much better.”

Getting his time back under 9 minutes in his current goal. Candanoza’s personal-best came at last season’s state meet when he finished fifth in 8:59.53.

In addition to his heroics in the 4-by-400 relay, Brody Bushnell also won the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:08.14 — a margin of victory of more than 4 seconds over the runner-up. It was the first time that he had run the 1,500 after winning the event at state last year.

“I think my preferred (event) is the 1,500 … I like how it’s really a strategic race,” he said. “It was pretty good competition. I ran not my PR but I ran pretty good for the first one this year, so I’m pretty happy about that.”

PHS senior Joseph Choi runs the anchor leg of the winning weight relay, a fun exhibition event that ended the meet. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Bushnell’s PR in the 1,500 is 4:03.04, which he ran during the 2021 season at the Wally Ciochetti Invitational. Valley Catholic’s Henry Tierney has the top time in 4A so far this season in the event with a 4:02.03. Bushnell plans to reach new heights, saying “Hopefully, I’m going to get a sub-4:00 this year.”

Other top-three finishes at the meet included King’s 54.76 in the 400, which was good for third place, and Warwick Bushnell’s 2:08.26 in the 800, which was also good for third. Senior Issac Lattin tied for third in the long jump with a distance of 17-8.5.

The 4-by-100 relay of freshman Hudson Raab, Warwick Bushnell, Lattin and senior Caleb Jensen placed third in 46.90.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.