Championships are won first by teaching kids the love of the game. In our little town, this starts with the Philomath Youth Activities Club, which organizes youth sports teams for baseball, softball, football, basketball and much more. (Photo by choness/Getty Images via Canva)

Fall sports will begin over the next few weeks. From what I have heard around town, both Philomath girls and boys cross-country are set to make a run at state titles this season. The girls fell just one point short last fall, but they came roaring back this spring when they ran away with the state title in track and field at the newly remodeled Hayward Field in Eugene.

The renovated Hayward Field in Eugene was the site of last season’s OSAA State Track and Field Championships. This massive jumbotron is one of many new features. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

I had a chance to go watch the girls on the first day of the OSAA state track meet back in May. For those who don’t know, Hayward Field underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation. It is truly an awe-inspiring place. Another fun fact is that former Philomath Mayor Rocky Sloan worked on installing all the electrical needs to wire the place as it was being built while he served our community.

I felt a tremendous sense of Warrior Pride as I watched Sage Kramer’s javelin soar across the stadium infield to win the state title. She threw the javelin a whopping 120 feet, 7 inches, to win a gold medal. She did it on the same exact field that the world’s greatest athletes from around the globe would compete on just two months later during the World Track and Field Championships. It was a proud moment to see the Philomath Warriors on top of the ginormous scoreboard thanks to Sage’s electric performance that our former mayor helped provide the power for. Go Warriors!

It is that sense of community, I would like to reflect on this month as we prepare for fall sports.  

PYAC’s sign reminds families to “Register for Fall Sports.” (Photo by Eric Niemann)

Championships are won first by teaching kids the love of the game. In our little town, this starts with the Philomath Youth Activities Club, which organizes youth sports teams for baseball, softball, football, basketball and much more. These teams are all sponsored by local businesses around town that help fund things like uniforms, referees, umpires or equipment to make these activities possible. There are also numerous volunteer coaches, assistant coaches, team parents and other volunteers who step up to help make this a positive youth activity in our community.

As an example, this past summer we had roughly 300 children involved in youth baseball or softball, fielding 25 teams with 25 sponsors and 25 coaches. These are impressive statistics in a small community of a little over 5,000 people. Kids that are involved in these activities learn the value of teamwork and how to play a sport — all while having fun doing it. This says a lot about our tight-knit community.

I always enjoy going into our local Dairy Queen for obvious reasons. I love ice cream. But also, I enjoy seeing all the PYAC youth team pictures on display inside the establishment. There are nearly two decades worth of youth teams hanging on the walls of DQ. There are baseball teams, basketball teams, volleyball teams and football teams. All the smiles on those faces tell their story. Sports are fun! The same is true at businesses across town who proudly display the PYAC teams they sponsor wherever you go. Wacky Bounce, True Value, Timber Supply, Figaro’s Pizza, Subway and many other of our local businesses partner with PYAC to help kids succeed in life.

Almost two decades of PYAC team photos adorn the walls of our local Dairy Queen. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

Here’s another example. Just this past summer our middle school girls softball team, coached by volunteers Justin Oster and Kari Jaques, had an undefeated season and went on to win the district championship title. Meanwhile, our Senior American baseball team, coached by volunteers Mark Woolsey and Sal Hernandez, made up of seventh and eighth graders, ended up winning the district title, advancing to the state playoffs. Congratulations to both teams on strong finishes! Their recent success is undoubtedly attributable to the strong foundation they developed as they spent years building skills and playing the game through PYAC, taught by volunteer coaches and supported by local businesses.

As our youth move up to play in high school, competition gets much more intense, and the wins are tougher to achieve. Nevertheless, last year, our Philomath High School won not one, not two, but three OSAA state championships! Our high school boys won the state title in soccer.  The girls of Philomath High School brought home state titles in both basketball and track and field. In other varsity sports, we also had high placements and won trophies in dance, wrestling, tennis, boys basketball, girls cross-country and volleyball. By the end of the school year, Amanda Bauer was hard to see in the school’s front office because there were so many trophies on her desk.   

Amanda Bauer, PHS athletics and activities administrative assistant, is obscured by one of nearly 10 trophies Philomath High School won during the last school year. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

In fact, we did so well that our high school was awarded the OSAA Cup, which is an annual award that brings all students and sports together. Winning requires combined excellence in academics, activities, athletics and sportsmanship, so contributions from all kinds of students are important. I am excited to see the news of the OSAA Cup arriving in Philomath in the next couple months.

Why has Philomath seen so much success at the high school level? Again, I point back to the winning combination of volunteers and local businesses that support our kids and love activities they participate in. I applaud every volunteer coach, every volunteer assistant coach, every business sponsor and every team parent for their continued commitment to our youth! Our kids would not be as competitive nor as successful without your continued dedication and commitment. What we are doing is working.

I look forward to seeing many of you either in the stands at Clemens Field, on the volleyball court, the soccer pitch, or the cross-country course in the next few weeks. Let’s root hard for our kids this fall. Go Warriors!

(Eric Niemann is a former mayor and city councilor in Philomath. He can be reached at Lifeinphilomath@gmail.com).