Cross-country runners
Getty Images

Over my next two installments of Warrior Nation, I’m taking a look at cross-country, beginning here with the boys.

In case you’ve missed them, I’ve been providing “unscientific” looks at fall sports in the Oregon West Conference. Previous blogs have covered my thoughts on boys soccer, girls soccer, football and volleyball.

My usual disclaimer — I haven’t interviewed coaches and I have no inside knowledge on what athletes may be returning. This is just an on-the-paper look at how the teams in the league shape up based on athletes that probably will be back along with the programs’ recent histories factoring in.

Freshmen almost always have an impact in cross-country. I didn’t extend my research into what eighth-graders from the 2019 season might be moving up at the various high schools.

From what I can see, the Oregon West Conference meet would come down to Philomath vs. Sisters. Last season, the Outlaws had the upper hand as district champion in a close race over runner-up Philomath. Newport was a ways back in third.

Of course, the Warriors followed up at state by beating Sisters and everybody else for the 4A championship trophy.

Taking a look at underclassmen and their performances at districts in 2019, it’s my estimation that Philomath would be considered the Oregon West favorites. Underclassmen Grant Hellesto, Justin Enghauser, Brody Bushnell, Sean Cummings and Levi Knutson all finished among the top 15 at districts last season.

I don’t know the status of those athletes for an upcoming season, but even if Philomath is missing some, there are others ready to move up. In fact, Philomath’s “junior varsity” from last season could beat out many of the Oregon West’s varsity teams.

In the 2019 state meet, Sisters had the individual state champion in John Peckham and the third-place finisher in Will Thorsett. Both are currently seniors. Ethan Hosang is another factor with those team scores, but I don’t believe the Outlaws can’t match up with Philomath through the top five.

As for the rest of the conference, Sweet Home might be able to overtake Newport for third. The Cubs lost some major contributors from the 2019 squad. Stayton appears to be a solid fifth and I’d guess that Woodburn and Cascade would be fighting to stay out of the cellar.

Individually, Peckham would be tough to beat.

In Friday’s blog, I’ll take a look at the girls.