Philomath’s Warwick Bushnell runs the anchor leg of the 4-by-400 relay Saturday in the Class 4A state meet at Hayward Field. The PHS foursome placed third in 3:28.47. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

EUGENE — Lining up for the second and final heat of the 4-by-400-meter relay Saturday, Philomath High’s boys found themselves in a position to walk out of Hayward Field with a fourth-place trophy.

North Bend and Henley had the same opportunity with all three schools in the same heat, even lining up next to each other in lanes 6, 7 and 8. North Bend led with 38 points at the time, Philomath was one point behind with 37 and Henley two points back with 36.

Freshman CD Nuno and junior Simon King ran the first two legs of the relay with the Warriors in fifth when senior Nixon Mooney took the baton. Mooney made a big move in the backstretch and made up ground on the leader for the handoff to sophomore Warwick Bushnell.

Bushnell blazed to a 50.9 split as Philomath ended up in third place. Unfortunately for the Warriors, North Bend finished one spot ahead in second place in 3:27.60. The Warriors clocked in at 3:28.47 and Henley placed fifth in 3:29.53. As such, North Bend nabbed the fourth-place trophy with 46 points, Philomath was fifth with 43 and Henley sixth with 40.

“Warwick came through with a sub-51 anchor and he tried so hard but North Bend just got out on us,” PHS coach Joe Fulton said. “They just had a little more speed.”

State track and field meets can torture the athletes involved with just how close they get to reaching a goal. The Warriors, for example, could’ve added the trophy to its collection back home with a few hundredths of a second faster here or avoiding a fall there.

“That’s what happens in track meets … you need to get the breaks,” Fulton said. “There’s so many different things that can happen.”

Philomath senior Micah Matthews, center, finished second behind Baker freshman Rasean Jones, right, in the 110-meter high hurdles. Matthews had a personal-best time of 15.21 seconds. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Matthews with 2nd, 4th on final day

Philomath High senior Micah Matthews medaled in three events with his top finish coming in the 110-meter high hurdles, a race that he won a year ago during his junior season. This time around, a lot of familiar faces were in the field except for a freshman out of Baker named Rasean Jones, who had not lost a race all season and had hurdled to a time of 14.85 Friday during prelims.

“We heard about him at the very end of last year about some kid that ran a crazy time in the Middle School Meet of Champions,” said Matthews, referring to Jones’s 13.33 in the 100 hurdles. “So we were all like, ‘what’s this about?’ and then he came out this season and absolutely took the field.”

Jones won in 15.01 with Matthews settling for second in 15.21. Junction City senior Carson Henderson was third in 15.54.

“It was a pretty good race — I had one hurdle where I got pretty heavy on the knee, slowed me down a bit,” Matthews said. “I think I could have been pretty close to getting first if I had been clean on that one but other than that, it was a fantastic race for me.”

The problem hurdle was in the middle but Matthews said he recovered quickly.

“I wasn’t letting myself think about what I just did; I was really trying to think about what I was about to do,” he said. “It was a personal lifetime best for me so it was a good way to go out.”

Micah Matthews in the blocks in the 110-meter high hurdles final. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Matthews’s previous best had been 15.34 seconds the previous week at districts. He won last year’s 110 state finals with a time of 15.76.

“I like that it’s an event that’s based more around skill than just being about genetics,” Matthews said. “It’s similar to why I like doing pole vault and high jump so much where someone can be a much better athlete than you are, but if you’ve trained hard and you’ve got more skill, you can do better. I really love that duality of track that is brute force events like the 100-meter dash and then there’s these super technical events that you can really get into the fine-tuning of how they work.”

Fulton described Matthews as a utilityman who can compete in anything.

“I think he’d make a good collegiate athlete if he wants to pursue that,” Fulton said. “Of course the hurdles are probably his best event but he’s a very good high jumper and even ran cross-country so he’s got some endurance to run that 1,500. He’s been a really important athlete for us, we’re going to miss him.”

Matthews scored five points in the high jump with a fourth-place finish after clearing 6 feet even.

“Although it was one of my higher placings that wasn’t my best performance,” said Matthews, who cleared 6-2 earlier this season. “On all three of my attempts (at 6-2) I had pretty decent height over the bar but it was just the tiny, tiny mistakes that took me off that (top spot on the) podium.”

Philomath’s Micah Matthews cleared 6 feet even and placed fourth in the high jump. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Matthews also placed eighth Friday in the pole vault, which he said was unexpected despite matching his PR of 12-6. In the 300 hurdles, however, he fell for the second straight year.

“I did exactly what I did last year — it was one hurdle earlier, one lane outside,” Matthews said. “I still ran a pretty good time … the time I ran (43.13) would have qualified for state if it had been at districts so it would’ve been a massive lifetime best for me. But honestly, I’m just glad to have been here. It doesn’t help us in team points but I’m just here to have fun.”

Matthews will go right into training for what he anticipates being a two-month-long decathlon season. In less than a month, he plans to compete in the Junior Olympics state competition. If he finishes among the top two, he would advance to regionals two weeks later with the ultimate goal being to make nationals, which coincidentally will be staged at Hayward Field.

Matthews won the Junior Olympics state meet last summer but was not able to participate in the out-of-state regional competition.

“This year, I have plans to hopefully go to regionals and from there see if I can make it to nationals,” he said.

Philomath’s Ben Hernandez finished second in the 1,500 with a time of 4:07.85. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Hernandez finishes strong in 1,500

Marshfield senior Alexander Garcia-Silver worked himself into a comfortable lead and finished first in 4:03.68. Hernandez was second with a personal-best 4:07.85 to beat out Newport sophomore Finnegan Collson, who was third in 4:08.32.

Said Fulton, “We couldn’t have hoped for anything better out of Ben… he had a great meet.”

Hernandez flashed back to last year’s sixth-place performance in the 1,500 when “going too early with a 400 to go and getting eaten alive on that (final) hundred meters.”

“That was going through my mind before the race — ‘don’t go too early, don’t go too early,’” Hernandez said.

“So I definitely knew ‘don’t go too early,’ that was going through my mind,” he said. “And you know with that 300 to go, I was like we’re going to try to catch Garcia so I went after it and it was coming a little bit on the backstretch but in the last 100 meters, maybe not, but no one’s gonna pass me.”

Hernandez and his Newport counterpart, Collson, developed a rivalry on the track. Hernandez mentioned Friday’s finish in the 3,000, which included Collson passing him late in the race to finish a spot higher.

“I was a little upset getting passed up by like three guys in the last 200 meters,” said Hernandez, who placed fifth in that event. “But having that mindset, I call it the wrestling mindset, of being able to just wipe clean, new day, new race.”

Hernandez was a standout PHS wrestler with a 122-44 career record and state title as a sophomore.

In the 1,500, Hernandez settled into a good rhythm early.

“I knew going into the race that it was most likely going to be a sit-and-kick,” Hernandez said. “It was finding my position early on — unlike in that 3K (Friday). … I found that in the 15(00) pretty quick on the first 20 meters, I was clicked in and ready to go.”

Philomath junior Simon King finished fifth in the 800 with a time of 2:01.11. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Bushnell, King earn medals

Before Bushnell’s strong finish in that 4-by-400 relay, the PHS standout had won medals in the open 400 and 200.

The 400 was fast with Marshfield’s Bodey Lutes setting a new meet record in 48.29. Bushnell, who has consistently been running under 52 seconds over the past month, settled for sixth in 51.77.

In the 200, Bushnell had sprinted to a PR time of 22.93 in Friday’s prelims and clocked in a 23.35 in Saturday’s finals to place eighth.

Junior Simon King earned a fifth-place medal in the 800 with his fastest-ever time of 2:01.11.

In the short relay, Philomath missed placing by one spot with ninth in 44.52, which was 0.17 slower than the foursome’s time at districts. Nuno, Mooney, senior Brody Bushnell and Warwick Bushnell ran for the Warriors.

Also, Nuno competed in the long jump and went 17-4 for 14th.

Marshfield won the team title with 70.5 points with Pendleton second at 64, Cottage Grove third at 59 and North Bend fourth with 46.

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.