Brody Bushnell
PHS sophomore Brody Bushnell runs across a bridge on the Sweet Home course Saturday. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

SWEET HOME — Philomath High sophomore Brody Bushnell finished runner-up at Saturday’s Oregon West district cross-country meet. The team’s No. 1 runner this season, Bushnell fits the mold of a competitor who is never satisfied with his latest performance.

“As a team, I’m really happy with how our team is doing but individually, I’m wishing that I could do a little bit better,” Bushnell said in response to a question about his thoughts on the season.

Still, Bushnell and his teammates had plenty of smiles following Philomath’s district title performance on the Community Chapel course near Sweet Home. The Warriors finished in first place with 34 points with Sisters settling for second at 49. Both of those teams advance to a Class 4A state meet that has been scheduled for this coming Saturday in Eugene.

Philomath took advantage of the type of depth needed to win meet titles. Besides Bushnell’s second-place showing, the Warriors placed three others in the top 10 — sophomore Mateo Candanoza in fourth, senior Grant Hellesto in seventh and senior Levi Knutson in ninth.

“We’re deep; we put eight guys, including a JV guy, in the top 16, so we had half of the top 16,” PHS coach Joe Fulton said. “Sisters looks pretty good and we beat them, but they still have the No. 1 runner in the state … he didn’t race today.”

Mateo Candanoza
Philomath’s Mateo Candanoza placed fourth overall at the district meet. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

With those comments, Fulton’s thinking about the state meet and Philomath’s chances. As he mentioned, defending state champion John Peckham of Sisters did not run at districts and Fulton said he’s been told that he’s 50-50 on whether he’ll be able to run at state.

If Peckham does run and assuming he performs up to his capabilities, Philomath will need runners like Hellesto and Knutson to perform better against Sisters’ entrants.

However, Fulton added, “It’s Siuslaw who really is the biggest challenge for state.”

As far as districts, Peckham’s teammate, Ethan Hosang, won in a time of 16:56.7 with Bushnell following at 17:37.2. Candanoza came in with an 18:03.0, Hellesto was at 18:23.3 and Knutson finished in 18:54.8.

“I’m really happy with where I’m at,” Candanoza said. “Last week, we had a race and I was really close to Brody, so I was feeling pretty confident in this one and think I did pretty well.”

Candanoza has shown significant improvement over the last few weeks. 

“That guy is so gifted, he’s just one of these natural runners,” Fulton said. It’s huge him taking fourth today. I’ve got to get Grant and Levi to stay with Mateo and we should be a real threat, because they can, we’re in good enough shape to do it, but Mateo, he’s an animal.”

Going into Saturday’s race, Bushnell knew he would have his work cut out, even with Peckham not running. He leaned on his teammates for approaching the meet.

“I know our team is really good so that helps give me confidence to know that I have all of my teammates there,” Bushnell said. “So I just try to run my hardest to help the team win.”

Philomath senior Justin Enghauser placed 12th (19:15.3), sophomore Ben Hernandez was 14th (19:18.1) and senior Jace Barrett took 15th (19:36.8) with a strong finish. 

Senior Sean Cummings finished as the top junior varsity runner at 19:36.1. Cummings beat out Barrett in the race’s stretch run and would’ve been 15th if it counted toward varsity.

Those times came on a challenging course.

“It was nice that we ran this same course like two weeks ago, so it was nice to know every turn so I’d know when to make my moves,” Bushnell said. “There was a river crossing twice and then there were some really technical trails that we had to go through.”

Grant Hellesto
Philomath’s Grant Hellesto runs down a hill during Saturday’s meet at Sweet Home. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The 4A state meet has been moved to Marist Catholic High School in Eugene, although Oregon West coaches would like to see it remain in Tillamook. The change of venue came down to which area had better COVID-19 infection rates.

Fulton said Oregon West coaches opposed the change with Tillamook having one of the top courses in the state and a meet organizer who has gone to great lengths to put it on. Plus, Siuslaw, who could be considered a favorite to win state, just ran on the Marist course at its district meet.

“Marist is nice and a shorter drive, I understand that, but the course in Tillamook is better and we know what kind of quality meet we’ll have,” Fulton said.

No matter where the state meet is staged, Philomath should be in contention. The runners are just happy to be competing at all.

Said Bushnell, “This (spring) has made me appreciate the sport a lot more because last fall when it all got taken away, it was a really big deal and it made me realize how much I missed it.”

Oregon West Conference District Meet
Saturday at Community Chapel, Sweet Home
Team Scoring
1, Philomath 34; 2, Sisters 49; 3, Sweet Home 98; 4, Stayton 105; 5, Newport 113; 6, Woodburn 140; 7, Cascade 184.
Top 10 Individuals
1. Ethan Hosang, Sisters, 16:56.70
2. Brody Bushnell, Philomath, 17:37.20
3. Will Thorsett, Sisters, 17:49.80
4. Mateo Candanoza, Philomath, 18:03.00
5. James Lackey, Newport, 18:10.50
6. Sam May, Sisters, 18:13.90
7. Grant Hellesto, Philomath, 18:23.30
8. Sam Laurel, Newport, 18:35.60
9. Levi Knutson, Philomath, 18:54.80
10. Angel Marquez, Woodburn, 18:56.00
Other PHS Results
12. Justin Enghauser, 19:15.30
14. Ben Hernandez, 19:18.10
15. Jace Barrett, 19:36.80

Team Scoring
1, Philomath 15.
PHS Results
1. Sean Cummings, 19:36.10
2. Micah Matthews, 20:27.00
7. George House, 24:05.40
10. Aidan Bruce, 26:05.40
12. Maxwell Carter, 26:29.20

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