Cross-country runners
Getty Images

In a solid challenge to open the season, Philomath High’s cross-country teams went to Florence Thursday and shared the course with Siuslaw and Tillamook. The three schools are traditional Class 4A powers in the sport with a combined 29 state team titles — Philomath and Siuslaw with 12 each and Tillamook with five.

“With such a short season, I wanted our teams to get a big test in the first meet to see where they are at and what they need to improve upon,” PHS coach Joe Fulton said. “We learned a great deal and I was happy with the results and the lessons.”

Running on a rolling 5-kilometer course at the Florence Golf Links, the runners braved slick conditions from rain with no spikes allowed. Siuslaw won both the boys and girls races. For the boys, Siuslaw finished with 27 points, Philomath was second with 40 and Tillamook finished third with 64. In the girls’ race, Siuslaw won with 28 points followed by Tillamook’s 43 and Philomath’s 51.

“Siuslaw took advantage of their home course, carefully stalking the Warriors through 2 miles before taking off,” Fulton said. “It was a game of chase after that and although Siuslaw won, it’s easy to see how closer contact in the final stretch could have made a difference.”

PHS sophomore Brody Bushnell led the local boys squad with a fourth-place finish in 17:13.71. Tillamook senior Marshall Bush finished first in the 32-athlete field with a time of 16:02.83 — leading from the start and winning by a considerable margin.

Grant Hellesto, Philomath senior, had a fifth-place finish in 17:28.59. Senior Levi Knutson also had a top-10 showing by finishing eighth in 17:36.89.

A group of four PHS runners came in fairly close together with sophomore Jesse Erickson (11th, 17:59.73), sophomore Ben Hernandez (12th, 18:01.90), sophomore Mateo Candanoza (13th, 18:03.11) and senior Justin Enghauser (14th, 18:17.43).

Also running for the Warriors were senior Sean Cummings (16th, 18:46.12), senior Jace Barrett (20th, 19:41.64), sophomore Micah Matthews (22nd, 19:52.83), sophomore Bryan Thomas (26th, 21:11.75) and senior George House (30th, 22:06.62).

Fulton said Enghauser and Cummings, two all-state seniors from the 2019 squad, have been recovering from injuries, which has resulted in a lack of training heading into the season.

“If they can stay healthy, they will no doubt make major improvements over the next month, which could prove critical to our chances of defending our state title,” Fulton said. “Both Justin and Sean have personal best times below 17 minutes.”

The teams will almost certainly be in contention for a state title on April 10, which Fulton said will be staged in Tillamook.

For the girls, Philomath had two runners finish in the top five with sophomore Ingrid Hellesto and junior Kaeleigh Houchin. Hellesto was fourth in 21:23.06 and Houchin fifth in 22:10.71.

Fulton called those good early-season times and added, “If they get back to their 2019 records of 19:54 and 20:53, we should be in contention at the district meet.”

Tillamook senior Sarah Pullen easily finished first in 19:36.61. The race had 22 entrants.

Freshman Alexa Eckhold finished with a strong kick and placed 11th (22:51.88), freshman Phoebe Coen was 14th (23:22.88) and freshman Danielle Harris was 18th (24:38.65). Fulton said he was happy about how those three athletes performed in their first high school meet.

Others running included junior Audrey Gerding (19th, 25:08.94) and sophomore Ally Todd (21st, 25:40.35) — both competing with about one week of 5-kilometer training heading into the season.

The Warriors will compete again on Saturday at the Harrier’s Challenge near Cottage Grove. The meet will begin at 10 a.m. at Schwarz Park’s Dorena Lake with 17 schools participating, but not all will compete at the same time.

Meet officials split up the boys and girls varsity races utilizing windows and the runners will begin in waves. Philomath will race in the final window at 2 p.m. with Pleasant Hill, South Umpqua, Sutherlin and Lowell. Times will be combined with teams that competed in the other windows to determine overall champions.

Spectators are not allowed to attend the meet because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Florence Golf Links Tri-Meet
Thursday, March 4, at Florence
Team Scoring
1, Siuslaw 27; 2, Philomath 40; 3, Tillamook 64
Top 10 Individuals
1. Marshall Bush, Tillamook, 16:02.83
2. Samuel Ulrich, Siuslaw, 17:01.69
3. Chad Hughes, Siuslaw, 17:09.95
4. Brody Bushnell, Philomath, 17:13.71
5. Grant Hellesto, Philomath, 17:28.59
6. Jaxson Jensen, Siuslaw, 17:32.49
7. Kyle Hughes, Siuslaw, 17:36.12
8. Levi Knutson, Philomath, 17:36.89
9. Ryan Jennings, Siuslaw, 17:44.81
10. Johnathan Ginyrich, Tillamook, 17:45.65
PHS Results
4. Brody Bushnell, 17:13.71
5. Grant Hellesto, 17:28.59
8. Levi Knutson, 17:36.89
11. Jesse Erickson, 17:59.73
12. Ben Hernandez, 18:01.90
13. Mateo Candanoza, 18:03.11
14. Justin Enghauser, 18:17.43
16. Sean Cummings, 18:46.12
20. Jace Barrett, 19:41.64
22. Micah Matthews, 19:52.83
26. Bryan Thomas, 21:11.75
30. George House, 22:06.62
Team Scoring
1, Siuslaw 28; 2, Tillamook 43; 3, Philomath 51
Top 10 Individuals
1. Sarah Pullen, Tillamook, 19:36.61
2. Brea Blankenship, Siuslaw, 20:28.83
3. Rylee Colton, Siuslaw, 20:29.42
4. Ingrid Hellesto, Philomath, 21:23.06
5. Kaeleigh Houchin, Philomath, 22:10.71
6. Grace Freudenthal, Siuslaw, 22:13.58
7. Lily Prince, Tillamook, 22:26.67
8. Jane Lacouture, Siuslaw, 22:33.80
9. Corduroy Holbrook, Siuslaw, 22:39.43
10. Vivian Seaholm, Tillamook, 22:39.82
PHS Results
4. Ingrid Hellesto, 21:23.06
5. Kaeleigh Houchin, 22:10.71
11. Alexa Eckhold, 22:51.88
14. Phoebe Coen, 23:22.88
18. Danielle Harris, 24:38.65
19. Audrey Gerding, 25:08.94
21. Ally Todd, 25:40.35