Five meets into the season, the Philomath High School girls cross-country team has found nothing but success with five first-place trophies.
The distance, venue and opposition doesn’t matter. From the season-opening 3K to courses with creek crossings to meets with 5A and 6A schools, the Warriors have come out on top. The latest victory occurred Saturday at the Northwest Classic in Eugene with a 52-point separation between Philomath and runner-up Cottage Grove.
In the individual results, the Warriors had a 1-2 finish with junior Adele Beckstead and sophomore Ana Candanoza finishing on the Lane Community College track with times of 19:23.6 and 19:39.7, respectively.
The team victory is significant in that Cottage Grove is among a group of schools most likely to challenge Philomath for the state title this fall at the same Eugene venue. The Warriors haven’t raced against La Grande, one of the other top schools that will have hopes of taking the top trophy.
Beckstead’s time was her best this season and just over 7 seconds off her personal record set on the same course in the same meet last year. She’s won the Northwest Classic three straight years. Candanoza, meanwhile, continued to show week-to-week improvement with a PR. Since the season-opening meet, Candanoza has improved her times by nearly 46 seconds.
Philomath competed at less than full varsity strength with a couple of girls missing from the lineup to make the victory even more impressive. Junior Melea Lattin (12th, 21:12.9), junior Hallie Morrison (14th, 21:32.4) and junior Hanna McDaniel (19th, 21:54.3) all had top-20 finishes, however. Lattin’s performance was a PR and McDaniel had a season-best time.
Senior Alexa Eckhold also ran varsity and finished in the top third (31st, 22:30.4) with 100 runners in the race.
Philomath High’s boys placed two runners in the top 10 and had a respectable third-place finish in a competition that had 17 teams. The Warriors entered this season with limited experience but have been steadily moving up the ranks.
In particular, sophomore Lukas Hernandez turned in the top performance of his high school running career with an eighth-place finish in 17:11.6. Hernandez missed the Country Fair Classic because of a soccer conflict and his time was more than two minutes slower in his last appearance on a course two weeks earlier. The time was 32.3 seconds faster than his previous PR, set in the conference championships during his freshman year.
Sophomore Leo Pausch placed 10th overall in 17:17.0, just missing his PR by two-tenths of a second, which he set the previous week. Pausch has finished among the top 10 in all four of Philomath’s 5K meets this season.
The rest of the point scorers for the PHS varsity included junior JJ Lewis (40th, 19:00.1), freshman Jacob Hernandez (45th, 19:12.5) and freshman Galen Murch (46th, 19:15.7). Hernandez and Murch had PRs. Sophomore Mason Stevens (73rd, 20:17.1) and sophomore Isaac Avery (98th, 21:21.8) also ran with the varsity in a race that featured 131 competitors.
Marist Catholic junior Conor Thompson won the meet in 16:37.0. The top six runners all had times under 17 minutes and finished within 11.5 seconds of one another. Crook County won the team title with 60 points followed by Knappa’s 92 and Philomath’s 135.
Philomath’s JV girls squad won its meet easily and had four top-10 finishers individually — Kyah Weeber (second), Brooke McDaniel (third), Phoebe Coen (fifth) and Ava Panico (seventh).
Philomath’s boys and JV girls will next compete Friday in the Willamette Golden Hour 5K at Mountain View School in Eugene. The JV girls will compete in the varsity race with Philomath’s top seven runners sitting that one out to compete the following day at the Nike Portland Invitational at Clackamas Community College.