Freshman Ana Candanoza persevered physical challenges to finish 17th overall. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

EUGENE — Philomath High freshman Ana Candanoza got up on Saturday morning not knowing if she would be able to compete in Saturday’s state cross-country meet. A dual-sport athlete, Candanoza came out of a girls soccer game on Wednesday with muscles so sore that she found it a challenge to even move around the house.

Warrior boys miss 4A state title by 3 points

EUGENE — The little changes here and there over the length of a 5-kilometer race might seem inconsequential on the surface — a strong finish in the stretch run moves a runner up a couple of spots. Or, a runner finishes 30 seconds slower than expected while still recovering from a bad cold earlier in…

“My calves were super, super tight and so yesterday, I could hardly walk,” Candanoza said after she finished 17th individually and helped the Warriors to a runner-up finish at the Class 4A State Championships. “Today, it was just a lot of massaging and trying to get them loose. Last night, I had heating pads on all the time … I was just going to try my best to run.”

Candanoza clocked in at 20:52.1 on the state course at Lane Community College, a time that ended up as the second-best on the team trailing only sophomore Adele Beckstead.

“We were worried about her … she had cramps so we put some balm on her calf and (assistant coach) Diana (Bushnell) rubbed it out and she seemed to be OK,” PHS coach Joe Fulton said.

Candanoza’s ability to earn third-team all-state might’ve been a surprise to those who were aware of her physical challenges. Another surprise might’ve been senior Ingrid Hellesto’s performance to finish 18th overall in 20:52.3, considering that she’s been battling illness all week.

“It didn’t really go as I hoped it would — I’m still fighting off sickness and so I’m just exhausted,” Hellesto said afterward. “But I tried to push myself as hard as I could.”

PHS sophomore Adele Beckstead finished as the team’s top runner at fifth overall. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Beckstead, Philomath’s top individual runner all season, came in with a time of 19:42.6 to place fifth overall. A top-five finish is nothing to sneeze at but Fulton said he was a little surprised at how she ran the course.

“I thought Adele would go right with the front runners but for some reason, she hung back and closed the gap but it was a little too late as the top four girls had opened up too big of a lead,” Fulton said. “So I think she’s a better front runner — that’s usually how she wins if she gets out in a lead.”

Beckstead, who earned first-team all-state honors, said after the race, “I’m pretty tired … there was lots of competition today. I was just trying to go out and run more consistently.”

The winner, senior Kyla Potratz of Phoenix, had finished fourth at the Paul Mariman Invitational, 37 seconds behind Beckstead. But at state, Potratz won by a margin of 26 seconds over runner-up Cecilia Villagomez of La Grande.

Candanoza had to work hard for that 17th-place showing.

“I think the first mile was pretty fast and the second one seemed really long,” Candanoza said. “I was just focused on trying to get to the end. It wasn’t my best race but there are a lot of fast runners here.”

Senior Ingrid Hellesto runs the course Saturday in her final appearance at state. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Hellesto’s final appearance at the state meet included a memorable sprint to the finish. In fact, she nearly passed Candanoza but ended up two-hundredths of a second behind her.

“I was really hoping my last senior race was going to be a good one, but I think our girls still ran pretty well,” Hellesto said. “I’m just kinda disappointed that it ended up that way.”

Indeed, there was some disappointment in the Warriors camp with the second-place team trophy. Philomath had its sights set on a state title but La Grande just had too much fire power on the course for the Warriors to overcome.

“I didn’t know they were going to be that tough — they’re a talented team,” Fulton said. “Our girls ran well but we’d never seen La Grande all year  and didn’t know if their times were on super-fast courses. Apparently not because they ran quite well today and they just outran us, period.”

La Grande finished with 62 points to Philomath’s 84. Crook County was a distant third at 139.

“I knew we would be at least second because there really wasn’t another team after that,” Fulton said.

Freshman Lucy King finished as Philomath’s No. 4 runner. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Beyond those top three for Philomath, freshman Lucy King had an admirable performance by placing 25th in 21:14.4. Sophomore Hanna McDaniel finished 31st (21:19.6), sophomore Kateri Pindell was 34th (21:34.3) and sophomore Hallie Morrison ended up 35th (21:44.4).

The race featured 103 runners and 13 full teams.

Philomath High’s girls have now placed either first or second at the state meet 11 times in its history — that’s eight state titles and three runners-up.

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.

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