EUGENE — Junior Adele Beckstead sat alone with her thoughts for a few minutes in the recovery tent. Sophomore Ana Candanoza’s emotions surfaced in the final stretch. A few minutes later, teammates comforted one another with tight hugs.
Philomath High’s girls cross-country team thought they had come up short in their quest for the Class 4A state title.
A collection of 32 photos from Philomath High’s appearance in the Class 4A cross-country meet at Eugene on Saturday.
EUGENE — When the starter’s pistol signaled the beginning of the 4A boys race Saturday afternoon at Lane Community College, Philomath had just two athletes with any running experience in a state cross-country meet. And through the first mile, there they were — Leo Pausch and Lukas Hernandez leading the way for the Warriors. To…
“We’ve been working hard to try and beat La Grande this year and so it’s a little bit disappointing that we didn’t but we have next year,” Candanoza said in an interview before learning about the final results. “Just a lot of emotions.”
Added Beckstead, “I don’t think we won. I mean, La Grande had at least three up in front of me.”
It’s true, the optics weren’t good. La Grande had a 1-2-3 finish with a fourth runner in 11th. But cross-country scores out to the fifth runner and the Warriors had a significant advantage. The math showed Philomath beating La Grande by five points.
The athletes eventually had their moment of clarity. Family members of the athletes flashed “W’s” to indicate that Philomath had won. Assistant coach Diana Bushnell then confirmed that the Warriors had won the title.
“We were all pretty disappointed and then our coach, Diana, told us and we were in disbelief,” PHS junior Melea Lattin said. “It was just really amazing.”
Beckstead and Candanoza placed ninth and 10th with times of 19:59.9 and 20:02.9, respectively. Lattin and sophomore Lucy King weren’t far behind in 14th and 15th in 20:19.1 and 20:25.0. All four of those athletes scored important points but what ended up being the difference on the final tally sheet came around the final turn about a minute later.
A determined Hanna McDaniel, junior, crossed the line in 27th with a time of 21:22.2 — moving up an impressive nine positions over the final third of the race. La Grande’s fifth runner finished 64th.
For scoring purposes, points assigned to those places are adjusted depending on how runners not attached to full teams come in. For example, McDaniel’s points ended up at 22 and La Grande’s No. 5 runner at 55.
“They really came through for us — that’s what we needed,” PHS coach Joe Fulton said after the team accepted the state championship trophy. “Because we knew we had to be quite a ways ahead of La Grande’s fifth runner. And you saw what La Grande did — 1, 2, 3, 11.”
In the end, Philomath’s team depth was the difference.
“Some of them didn’t have the best race they’ve this year and yet they still managed to win because they were so close together,” Fulton said.
La Grande’s 1-2-3 finish was impressive with Cecilia Villagomez, Brooke Perry and Emily Tubbs. They started to separate from the pack in between the first and second miles.
“They definitely took off but we still kept working at it out there … it was hard but we did really well,” Beckstead said. “I wanted to stay more with the front pack but it spread out a lot.”
Candanoza said that heading into the race, her goal was to beat La Grande’s No. 3 runner, Tubbs.
“She, like, took off and I don’t know when it was but she just kept going,” Candanoza said.
Beckstead had a strong finish and passed Candanoza with about 30 meters left in the race.
The course was sloppy with strong rainfall at times, so times were not exactly blazing fast. But everyone had to run in the same conditions.
“It was raining really hard at the beginning, we were really wet and then your shoes get so soggy,” Candanoza said. “But then it settled down and I didn’t really notice it after that.”
Fulton said going into the race that he wanted to see a strategy that utilized a group approach.
“The biggest strategy that Joe wanted us to stick to was he wanted me, Melea and Hallie (Morrison) to run together,” King said. “I think for the first mile, we did that really well but we went out so fast.”
King, Lattin and Morrison stayed within a few seconds of each other through the first mile. But in the second mile, King and Lattin started to pull away. Morrison, McDaniel and Kateri Pindell were grouped together, however, with the lead from that group ultimately going to finish in that all-important fifth position.
Lattin and King both moved up late with effective finishes.
“We talked to each other throughout the race and told each other when to pass a girl,” Lattin said. “It worked really well.”
Behind McDaniel, Pindell finished 30th in 21:25.8 and Morrison was 35th in 21:31.5.
“It’s amazing because last year we lost to La Grande … it just feels good to finally get it,” King said.
Lattin hadn’t participated in cross-country until this fall and her presence in the lineup proved to be pivotal.
“I joined and I said ‘I want to win state’ — and now we did it,” Lattin said.
The state title is Philomath High’s ninth in girls cross-country. The Warriors won six titles under coach Paul Mariman with a pair of three-peats in 1984-86 and 1988-90.
For Fulton, it’s his third state title as head coach with the first two coming in 2001 and 2003.
“Every one of them is special,” he said.