The PHS homecoming royalty finalists line up for a photo. From left, sophomores Ethan Aynes and Janice Hellesto, seniors Elizabeth Martinez-Marquez, Jasmin Eck and Hailie Couture, junior Jonathan Doig and freshmen Cameron McLennan and Lucy King. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath High School crowned its first-ever “monarchs” for homecoming royalty Friday night at Clemens Field as part of a student effort to make royalty selection more gender inclusive.

Senior Elizabeth Morales-Marquez and sophomore Janice Hellesto were both chosen to wear the crown based on the voting of their classmates, instead of the traditional homecoming queen selection from past years.

“Our main thought process was just that our system before wasn’t the most inclusive,” Associated Student Body co-president Brooke Moade said. “Especially this year, we have a larger population of nonbinary students who we wanted to include — that was a big part of that.”

ASB co-president Abigail Brown said the selection process started with 10 students (although two later dropped out, so there were eight candidates on Friday night).

Sophomore Janice Hellesto is crowned as one of the monarchs. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“Anyone could vote for anyone that they wanted to in their class and then we would have two monarchs at the end of the week,” Brown said. “So it could be anyone — like two boys, two girls, a boy and a girl, whatever you want.”

The revamped gender-neutral, nonbinary selection process started with the students but others contributed to the conversation to provide other perspectives.

“We brought some adults into the conversation and the ASB class and some outside people and we had a big group discussion,” Moade said.

In the past, students would vote on homecoming queen candidates in each grade until it was narrowed down to two seniors, one junior, one sophomore and one freshman. From that group of five princesses, the entire student body would then vote on their choice of queen.

Last year’s homecoming queen, Sophie Robinson, was on hand to place crowns on the heads of the monarchs.

Other royalty candidates were freshmen Lucy King and Cameron McLennan, sophomore Ethan Aynes, junior Jonathan Doig and seniors Jasmin Eck and Hailie Couture.

Senior Elizabeth Martinez-Marquez, seen here with Hailie Couture in Friday morning’s parade, was crowned as one of the two monarchs. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The homecoming royalty announcements at halftime of the football game was one of the highlights of homecoming week, which would wrap up Saturday night with the homecoming dance.

Both Brown and Moade said they enjoyed the homecoming parade, which occurred on Friday morning.

“It’s been really fun seeing how we incorporated floats this year — I think those used to be a thing of the past — and we brought those back this year,” Brown said.

The parade hit all four Philomath campuses and both Brown and Moade said younger students recognized their parade float, “Squad of ’23,” which was based on Fortnite, a popular video game.

The PHS homecoming parade rolls past Clemens Primary School students on Friday morning. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“We were being ridiculous and silly but we had three of our seniors in the float with our royalty representatives, dressed up in theme,” Moade said. “They know these characters that they were dressed up as, so that was super fun to see all their faces light up because they know exactly what we’re doing.”

Other floats were equally creative and those who were on foot in the parade also appeared to be getting into the spirit.

Among the other popular activities, the annual powder puff football game and bonfire were staged on Wednesday night.

Brown said it was a crazy, busy week but it was a lot of fun.

“I think the bonfire and powder puff was super fun,” she said. “We’re having great turnouts at things and kids are just super excited to be back to stuff and so it’s been really good.”

PHS students get into the spirit of homecoming as part of Friday morning’s parade. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Moade was happy to see students embrace the ideas behind homecoming week.

“Especially today, we had Warrior wear and anything but a backpack day and there was some super creative stuff that people came up with,” she said. “It’s super fun to see all of our students engaged.”

Moade was looking forward to Saturday night’s homecoming dance.

Said Moade, “I love getting my groove on, you know, and just seeing everybody happy and excited.”

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.