Brody Bushnell
Philomath’s Brody Bushnell has finished first at the Harrier’s Challenge for two straight years. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath High School boys and girls cross-country teams easily won the Harrier’s Challenge Saturday at Schwarz Park near Cottage Grove and sophomore Brody Bushnell took first place individually for the second straight year.

PHS coach Joe Fulton saw the meet as an opportunity to get athletes needed time on a course.

“Since it is sometimes difficult to get our runners to train over the weekend, I figured Saturday meets should do the trick and racing on the challenging course in the Harrier Challenge is certainly a good workout,” Fulton said.

In the team results, Philomath’s boys won with a low score of 19, followed by La Pine (40), Harrisburg (121), Junction City (131) and Cottage Grove (184). Only two teams had enough runners for team results for the girls — Philomath finishing with a perfect score of 15 with North Douglas second with 49.

Fulton said he was alarmed at how many schools had incomplete teams — at least five runners are needed.

The boys had a 1-2-3-4 finish with Bushnell leading the way with a time of 18:25, Grant Hellesto second at 18:43, Mateo Candanoza third at 18:52 and Levi Knutson fourth at 19:01.

Other PHS runners in the top 10 were Jesse Erickson (seventh, 19:20), Ben Hernandez (eighth, 19:25) and Justin Enghauser (10th, 20:01). Overall, the Warrior runners occupied 10 of the top 16 spots among a meet that featured 62 finishers.

For the girls, Elmira’s Alyssa Johnson won with a time of 21:58 and Philomath’s Ingrid Hellesto finished second in 22:17.

“The girl who barely beat Ingrid was in an earlier race,” Fulton said. “I think Ingrid would have tracked her down if they had been in the same race.”

In Philomath’s wave, the team’s runners finished 1-3-4-6-7-9-10. The final overall results showed Kaeleigh Houchin in seventh (23:59) and Alexa Eckhold in ninth (25:26) to give the Warriors three in the top 10.

The times appear to be slow but the Harrier’s Challenge course and the meet’s organization contributed to those results, Fulton said. The course had a couple of features that provided unique challenges.

The runners had a relatively easy start on the course with the first mile meandering through the lower part of the park, although Fulton said there are a couple of logs to jump over. It’s the second mile that challenges the best of athletes.

“The second mile includes the steepest hill you’ll ever find on a cross-country course, straight up an embankment next to the dam that holds back Dorena Lake,” Fulton said. “Very few runners can make it up that hill without slowing to a walk or crawl — or even throwing up — but most of our varsity boys managed to run the entire hill without stopping as did Ingrid on the girls’ side.”

After the hill, runners climb over a gate and race along what Fulton calls the best stretch of the course — “a scenic half-mile straight shot along the lake.” The final mile took runners down a very muddy trail before leading them onto pavement for the final 400 meters.

“Suffice to say it was a slow course and times … revealed that,” Fulton added. “No one ran close to their personal best.”

The meet was organized with groups of teams starting in three waves at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. — Philomath running in the final group with Pleasant Hill, South Umpqua and Lowell.

Fulton described how the runners competed with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

“Only two runners, spaced 6 feet apart could start at the same time,” he said. “Every 10 seconds another two would take off. And since the fastest runners went first it was virtually impossible for runners to target and catch any other runner.”

Fuller said those racing conditions were another factor with times that can’t be compared to a typical meet.

“You can’t give the fastest runners a head start and expect the up-and-comers to track them down, especially on such a grueling course,” Fulton said. “And with no parents there to cheer us on, it was strangely quiet for a cross-country meet.”

Philomath will next race on Saturday, March 13, with a trip to Tillamook. The course will take competitors through Zweifel Hydrangea Ranch. The girls race is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m., and the boys at 3:15 p.m.

The Warriors will go up against only the other 4A schools that are entered, Fulton said. That includes Tillamook, Astoria, Banks, Newport and North Marion.

Harrier Challenges
Saturday, March 6, at Schwarz Park, Cottage Grove

Team Scoring
1, Philomath 19; 2, La Pine 40; 3, Harrisburg 121; 4, Junction City 131; 5, Cottage Grove 184.
Top 10 Individuals
1. Brody Bushnell, Philomath, 18:25
2. Grant Hellesto, Philomath, 18:43
3. Mateo Candanoza, Philomath, 18:52
4. Levi Knutson, Philomath, 19:01
5. Wyatt Montgomery, La Pine, 19:04
6. Max Miller, La Pine, 19:15
7. Jesse Erickson, Philomath, 19:20
8. Ben Hernandez, Philomath, 19:25
9. Jesse Ordonez, La Pine, 19:51
10. Justin Enghauser, Philomath, 20:01
Other PHS Results
11. Sean Cummings, 20:14
13. Micah Matthews, 20:53
16. Jace Barrett, 21:23
29. George House, 23:29
37. Bryan Thomas, 24:55
56. Max Carter, 29:31
58. Aidan Bruce, 30:53
Team Scoring
1, Philomath 15; 2, North Douglas 49.
Top 10 Individuals
1. Alyssa Johnson, Elmira, 21:58
2. Ingrid Hellesto, Philomath, 22:17
3. Katie Chapman, Lowell, 22:46
4. Athena Lau, Scio, 23:24
5. Gracee Whitaker, Junction City, 23:27
6. Ailah Altenus, Oakridge, 23:43
7. Kaeleigh Houchin, Philomath, 23:59
8. Iris Frome, Elmira, 24:21
9. Alexa Eckhold, Philomath, 25:26
10. Piper Youngmayr, Cottage Grove, 25:20
Other PHS Results
14. Phoebe Coen, 25:59
16. Danielle Harris, 26:17
21. Audrey Gerding, 27:53
23. Ally Todd, 28:37

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