Warriors senior Ben Hernandez smiles after winning the 800-meter run during Saturday's Philomath Invite. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath High’s two fastest quarter-milers were just too much for the competition in the meet-ending 4-by-400 relay Saturday at the Philomath Invitational.

Setting up in the second position to receive the baton for the race’s third leg, senior Nixon Mooney had some ground to make up. But he closed fast and took the lead about halfway through his sprint. Mooney handed off to sophomore Warwick Bushnell for the final lap and the Warriors won with a time of 3:37.57 — more than 2 seconds ahead of Cottage Grove.

Warrior girls dominate Philomath Invite

Pulling off a hurdling sweep during Saturday afternoon’s Philomath Invitational, senior Ingrid Hellesto was among the Warrior athletes scoring significant points in the team’s title-winning performance. Hellesto’s accomplishment is especially noteworthy considering she’s only in her second season of competing in one of the sport’s most demanding events. Last year, head coach Joe Fulton obviously…

“Honestly, I usually kinda like getting the baton in second just because I don’t like running by myself,” Bushnell admitted. “I was terrified the whole time I was running — trying not to let him catch me.”

The situation caused Bushnell to flash back to last season.

“There was actually a meet last year where we raced a similar race … a Cottage Grove guy was behind me and he caught me and beat me,” he said. “It was really devastating so I was just trying not to repeat last year but thankfully I was able to hold him off.”

The outcome was important when it comes to the meet’s final standings. Newport held on to first place to win the meet with 104 points, Philomath was second at 102, Cottage Grove finished third with 100.5 and Junction City wasn’t far behind in fourth at 93.5.

PHS sophomore Warwick Bushnell runs the final stretch to victory in the 4-by-400 relay. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath’s winning 4-by-400 relay actually included an unexpected participant in senior Mateo Candanoza. The team had planned to run senior Brody Bushnell but he dropped out after feeling less than 100% following his participation in the meet-opening 4-by-100 relay. Candanoza, meanwhile, was penciled in for a leg on the junior varsity 4-by-400 but was moved up.

“Usually when I run the 400, I just try to go as hard as I can but I had a little bit more strategy this time,” Candanoza said. “The final stretch — seems like you’re moving in slow motion.”

Senior Ben Hernandez took the baton from Candanoza for the second leg.

Freshman CD Nuno, Mooney and the Bushnell brothers ran on the 4-by-100 that placed second in 45.38.

Said Warwick Bushnell, “We did way better than what we were expecting and that was really fun.”

Individually, Hernandez won the 800 in a personal-record time of 2:03.35 — a look of great satisfaction on his face as he crossed the finish line.

Marist Catholic senior Luke Shah for much of the race before Hernandez’s strong finish.

“The guy out front who led — he went really hard and on that second lap, he died,” Hernandez said.

PHS senior Nixon Mooney runs he curve in the 200. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Hernandez loves running the 800 and 1,500 for his individual events.

“You know, the 800 goes by really quick,” he said. “On the first lap, you’re kind of on autopilot and then you hit that second lap and it’s time to go.”

Hernandez said there’s some experimenting going on with what events he’ll eventually run at districts — some sort of combination involving the 800, 1,500 and 3,000.

“I’m a little sick right now — been sick all this week,” Hernandez said. “So I was hoping to just do my best and I’m really happy to come through with a PR and also on my split (in the 4-by-400) I improved from two weeks ago.”

Warwick Bushnell and Mooney had good showings in the 200 and 400 with 2-3 finishes behind Cottage Grove senior Brennen Murphy. In the 400, Bushnell settled for second at 52.71 and Mooney was a very close third at 52.73.

“In the 400, I was a little disappointed with that,” Bushnell said. “There were really only two other kids that I was worried about and they both started right behind me so I was kinda just running for my life the whole time. I think I went out too fast.”

Murphy, Bushnell and Mooney also finished 1-2-3 in the 200.

“That was a fun race with a really fast guy (Murphy) so props to him,” Bushnell said. “I was just chasing him the whole time and I feel like that helped me get a really good time.”

Bushnell’s 23.42 placed him 15th on the PHS all-time list for the event. Murphy won with a 23 flat and Mooney’s time came in at 23.83.

Bushnell and Mooney are very close in ability.

“We’re always trying to make each other do better,” Bushnell said. “I’m really looking forward to moving on and hopefully we can go 1-2 at districts.”

Mateo Candanoza placed second in the 1.500. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

In the 1,500, Candanoza led for much of the race but Newport’s Connor Brown caught up in the final stretch and got the win. Brown came in at 4:20.34 and Candanoza finished in 4:20.97.

Candanoza didn’t run the 3,000 Saturday but he’ll be doing that event plus the 1,500 when it comes time for districts and state. Candanoza placed in both at state last season.

Senior Micah Matthews missed the meet with a slight muscle strain from his participation in the previous week’s competition at Summit. Matthews said he expects to be back in action next weekend.

Philomath will get back on the track and in the field on Saturday at the Rob Frank Invitational at Banks.

Brad Fuqua

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.