Brody Bushnell, Levi Knutson, Grant Hellesto and Mateo Candanoza
Philomath’s Brody Bushnell leads during Saturday’s Husky Invitational. Also pictured from the Warriors are Levi Knutson, Grant Hellesto and Mateo Candanoza. (Photo by Audrey Gerding)

In a meet featuring most of the schools in the Oregon West Conference, Philomath High’s boys and girls cross-country teams had positive results to indicate that they’ll both be in the running for a berth in the April 10 state meet that has been scheduled for Class 4A schools.

Competing Saturday at Sweet Home in the Husky Invitational, Philomath’s boys placed six runners among the top eight and cruised to first place with 19 points. Sweet Home was a distant second at 72 and Stayton third at 72. Conference rival Sisters was not at the meet.

“Philomath and Sisters seem to have a lock on the two berths for boys, which is not surprising as these two teams placed 1-2 at the last state meet,” Philomath High coach Joe Fulton said.

The girls took the Husky Invite team trophy with 35 points, just head of runner-up Stayton with 40. 

“There will be a battle between Sisters, Philomath and Stayton for our two conference berths to the girls’ state championship when the entire league meets in Sweet Home on April 3,” Fulton said.

The Oregon School Activities Association opted to not hold official state championships in any sports this academic year but the schools got together to come up with their own plan. Currently, the 4A meet on April 10 is set for Alderbrook Golf Course in Tillamook. Fulton said it’s possible that the venue could change based on the COVID-19 risk level in Tillamook County and if that’s the case, the state meet could end up being hosted by Marist Catholic in Eugene.

But getting back to the Sweet Home results, Philomath sophomore Brody Bushnell finished as the top individual with a time of 18:31.6, nearly 9 seconds ahead of runner-up James Lackey of Newport. Senior Grant Hellesto was third (18:45.8), sophomore Mateo Candanoza fourth (18:46.7), senior Levi Knutson fifth (19:24.7), senior Justin Enghauser sixth (19:53.4) and sophomore Ben Hernandez eighth (20:07.0). The team’s seventh varsity runner, senior Sean Cummings, was 17th (21:06.4).

“The course was very difficult — hilly, muddy and two stream crossings that saw many runners fall,” Fulton said. “The times were slow, as expected, by as much as 2 minutes per runner.  Nevertheless, our runners took it seriously, knowing that our entire conference except for Sisters, was in the meet.”

Although the official Husky Invitational results separate varsity and junior varsity, those athletes did run together. Jace Barrett, Philomath senior, the winner among the JV runners in 20:14.3, actually finished 10th overall and had a better time than the top varsity entrants from Woodburn, Cascade and Sweet Home.

Sophomore Jesse Erickson was entered to compete but Fulton said he suffered a stress fracture and could not race. Senior George House is battling a sore knee and also did not race. Junior Bryan Thomas twisted his ankle during the race and had to pull out.

In four meets this season, Philomath’s boys have a 15-1 record. In cross-country, that means the Warriors finished ahead of 15 other schools in the final team results. The one “loss” came to Siuslaw in the season-opening three-school race at Florence, but the Warriors have now won three straight meets.

Phoebe Coen, Alexa Eckhold and Danielle Harris
Phoebe Coen, from left, Alexa Eckhold and Danielle Harris compete in Saturday’s Husky Invite. (Photo by Audrey Gerding)

The Philomath girls placed all six of its team scorers in the top 20 with three of those in the top 10. Sophomore Ingrid Hellesto placed fourth in 23:10.3. Newport junior Aliya Larsen won the race well ahead of the others with a time of 21:48.0. Junior Kaeleigh Houchin placed seventh (23:52.7) and freshman Alexa Eckhold was 10th (25:15.5).

Another PHS freshman, Phoebe Coen, finished just outside of the to 10 in 11th (25:44.0), freshman Danielle Harris was 14th (25:58.5) and sophomore Ally Todd crossed in 20th (27:42.0). Junior Audrey Gerding is sidelined with a foot injury and did not race.

With the first-place showing at Sweet Home, the Philomath girls have an 8-3 record for the season.

Philomath will compete at 2 p.m. Friday at Cascade High School near Turner. Joining the Cougars and Warriors will be Sweet Home and Woodburn. 

Husky Invitational
Saturday, March 20, at Community Chapel, Sweet Home

Team Scoring
1, Philomath 19; 2, Sweet Home 72; 3, Stayton 73; 4, Newport 95; 5, Country Christian 128; 6, Woodburn 129.
Top 10 Individuals
1. Brody Bushnell, Philomath, 18:31.6
2. James Lackey, Newport, 18:40.0
3. Grant Hellesto, Philomath, 18:45.8
4. Mateo Candanoza, Philomath, 18:46.7
5. Levi Knutson, Philomath, 19:24.7
6. Justin Enghauser, Philomath, 19:53.4
7. Brenden Del Grande, Stayton, 20:03.6
8. Ben Hernandez, Philomath, 20:07.0
9. Brody Ramseyer, Stayton, 20:07.9
10. David Rowe, Mohawk, 20:17.0
Other PHS Results
17. Sean Cummings, 21:06.4
Team Scoring
1, Philomath 35; 2, Stayton 40; 3, Newport 79; 4, Sweet Home 86; 5, Harrisburg 104.
Top 10 Individuals
1. Aliya Larsen, Newport, 21:48.0
2. Katie Chapman, Lowell, 22:57.4
3. Myranda Marquez, Woodburn, 23:00.2
4. Ingrid Hellesto, Philomath, 23:10.3
5. Hope Bridge, Stayton, 23:32.1
6. Maddy Mitzel, Stayton, 23:50.8
7. Kaeleigh Houchin, Philomath, 23:52.7
8. Jessy Hart, Sweet Home, 24:23.4
9. Sarah Wolf, Stayton, 24:33.7
10. Alexa Eckhold, Philomath, 25:15.5
Other PHS Results
11. Phoebe Coen, 25:44.0
14. Danielle Harris, 25:58.5
20. Ally Todd, 27:42.0
PHS Results
1. Jace Barrett, 20:14.3
2. Micah Matthews, 21:28.6
6. Maxwell Carter, 27:45.8
8. Aidan Bruce, 29:27.3

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