The Paul Mariman Invitational in the past has given out unique trophies to top teams and individuals. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

In one of the largest sporting events of the year in Philomath, thousands of people will be in town Saturday for the 38th annual Paul Mariman Invitational.

Following the destruction of the on-campus course during a tree-removal project that occurred only a matter of days before cross-country practice started in August, this year’s invitational was in danger of cancellation. However, a collaborative effort that included coaches, maintenance and various volunteers led to a new course and officials in early September decided the meet would go on as scheduled.

Heading in, the Warrior girls will be an overwhelming favorite to repeat as the team title champions and the PHS boys should be in the hunt for a runner-up trophy.

Varsity races are scheduled for 2 p.m. for the girls and 2:30 p.m. for the boys with an awards ceremony to follow at around 3 p.m. at Clemens Field. The day begins with middle school races at 11:30 a.m. and then junior varsity races at 1 p.m.

The Paul Mariman Invitational is limited to schools no larger than Class 4A and accepts a maximum of 30 high schools. This year’s edition has around 26 high schools entered.

“I imagine there’ll be somewhere between 15 and 20 complete teams in the boys and closer to 15 in the girls,” veteran PHS coach Joe Fulton said, explaining that not all schools are able to send complete teams.

When entries closed earlier this week, there were a total of 701 runners signed up for the six races, which includes boys and girls middle school, JV and varsity. The middle school boys will be the largest field with 185 runners and the junior varsity girls will have the fewest runners with 52.

Adele Beckstead was the individual winner in last year’s Paul Mariman Invitational. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

At the varsity level, unless the entire team comes down with a last-minute case of the flu, the Philomath High girls are expected to easily win the meet. In fact, Fulton believes the junior varsity squad would probably finish runner-up.

Bandon had been penciled in as a team that could put up a fight but the flu actually did hit that squad hard and the Tigers canceled their trip to Philomath.

“Of all the girls entered in the meet, if you add the JV and varsity together, we have 10 of the top 18 times entered for Philomath,” Fulton said, those calculations offered before he knew of Bandon’s cancellation. “I don’t want to diminish the competition but we’re deep. I just don’t see any way we could possibly lose.”

Philomath High’s girls are coming off the most competitive meet it’s seen in years by participating in the Nike Portland Classic.

“It was nice for our team to actually have some tough competition last Saturday because that gave them an opportunity to race as a team,” Fulton said. “In a lot of these things, we can just run from Point A to Point B and win because we’re so deep but when you go up against a good team, you have to have a strategy and you have to follow it. And they did that (at Portland) so I’m pretty confident that they can finish up the season winning everything and then figuring out how to beat La Grande at state.”

Fulton does see some competition for the individual title in the girls’ race. Philomath sophomore Ana Candanoza and junior Adele Beckstead will be among those with a chance to win.

The two PHS runners seem to be somewhat interchangeable as far as the top PHS performer. Fulton said they each have their own strengths.

“Adele is a very good front runner if she can get away from the pack as she proved at the Northwest Classic and this would be a good race for that kind of strategy actually,” Fulton said. “There is one girl that I’m a little concerned about — Sophie Schoolmeester of Banks. She’s the 3A state champion in the 800 and a very fast girl. … So she’s not going to be a runner that you’re going to want to be with when you hit the track.”

Like Candanoza and Beckstead, Schoolmeester is running well under 20 minutes.

“If Ana and Adele want to win this race, they’re going to have to separate themselves from her at some place during the race,” Fulton said.

Junior Melea Lattin, sophomore Lucy King and junior Hallie Morrison are in the 3-4-5 point-scoring slots for the Warriors.

Sophomore Lukas Hernandez competes in last week’s Willamette Golden Hour 5K in Eugene. (Photo provided by Eddy Pausch)

In the boys varsity race, Newport enters the meet as a heavy favorite to take the team title.

“They’re the best team in the state … but our boys could conceivably take second,” Fulton said. “I wouldn’t have expected that a few weeks ago but they should have a pretty good battle with The Dalles, who nipped us for the state title last year. And Cottage Grove, Tillamook, Scappoose — they’ll be fighting for a top-four trophy.”

The Warriors will be at full strength with a lineup led by sophomores Lukas Hernandez and Leo Pausch.

Hernandez has improved his times over the past three meets from 19:17.0 to 17:11.6 to 16:41.6.

“First of all, he’s very talented; he’s a naturally-gifted runner,” Fulton said of Hernandez. “But he understands the concept of pace and working your way up into a race.”

Pausch has taken a different approach in his races so far this season by coming out faster from the start. Fulton’s working with him on refining his strategy.

“I’m trying to get to Leo to calm down and take his time because he just loves to race,” Fulton said. “He wants to be right up there with the front runner from the get-go.”

Another sophomore, Mason Stevens, and a freshman, Galen Murch, are both coming off times under 18:30 from the last meet and are currently the No. 3 and No. 4 runners for the Warriors.

On a side note from the middle-school ranks, Philomath’s girls are the No. 1 team in the state based on how a hypothetical meet would come out based on times so far this season.

Said Fulton, “The future looks very bright for our girls.”

Hannah Hernandez competes for OSU in the Charles Bowles Willamette Invitational Sept. 23 in Salem. (Photo provided by Sal Hernandez)

Hannah Hernandez competing at OSU

Former Philomath High cross-country standout Hannah Hernandez has started running for Oregon State University. In February, she returned from an 18-month mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mérida, Mexico.

“After a rewarding and spiritually enriching time abroad, Hannah has pivoted her focus towards reigniting her passion for running,” her dad, Sal Hernandez said. “Shortly upon her return, she started a rigorous training regimen to regain her competitive running form in anticipation of rejoining the Oregon State University cross-country and track team.”

Hannah made significant strides through these recent months of work and started competing. She made her debut with OSU in the Linfield Harrier Classic on Sept. 1 and finished 26th in a 4-kilometer time of 14:41.1. Then on Sept. 23 at the 48th annual Charles Bowles Willamette Invitational in Salem, Hannah finished the 5K in 59th with a time of 19:09.7.

“Hannah recognizes the journey ahead and embraces the gradual process of improvement,” Sal Hernandez said. “She is diligently working hard to meet her goals, fully aware that continued progress will take time and persistent effort.”

Hernandez is majoring in construction engineering management in the department where her dad teaches.

Students gather around the annual homecoming bonfire Wednesday night at PHS. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

Odds and ends involving PHS teams

• Philomath High’s homecoming football game is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Clemens Field. The evening begins at around 6:40 p.m. with a tribute to former player Cody Patterson, who was killed 10 years ago serving our country in Afghanistan. Students have been participating in activities all week, including a power-puff game and bonfire Wednesday. The homecoming parade is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

• Philomath girls soccer player Kamilla Grimmer ranks ninth in the state for goals scored with 16. She is also tied for ninth for assists with nine. Teammate Bailey Bell is tied for third statewide in assists with 12 and also ranks in the top 20 for goals scored with nine.

• Warriors sophomore CD Nuno was one of 20 players statewide to have 100-plus receiving yards in a game last week. Nuno had eight catches for 107 yards in Philomath’s 21-20 win at Stayton. In addition, senior Kaden Muir was one of 33 players in the state last week to score three-plus touchdowns. Muir had three scores vs. the Eagles on runs of 5 and 3 yards and on a reception of 5 yards.

• Philomath’s volleyball team will try to knock off Cascade on the road Thursday and if that happens, the two teams would be tied for first place in the Oregon West. The Cougars (13-3) beat the Warriors (8-6) in four sets earlier this season.

• In the Class 4A coaches’ girls soccer poll released earlier this week before Tuesday’s results, Philomath was ranked No. 5. The Warriors beat Sweet Home Tuesday, 8-0, and were scheduled to play Stayton Thursday.

• The PHS boys soccer team has a chance to create chaos in the Oregon West Thursday at Stayton. The Eagles are currently tied for first place in the league at 2-0-2 with both Newport and North Marion. Philomath is fourth at 2-2 but played both the Cubs and Huskies in close, physical games.

• The OSAA’s “Inside Week 5” article published last weekend made mention of sophomore Rocco De La Rosa’s tackle on a two-point conversion as Stayton went for the win late in the fourth quarter against Philomath. Muir’s 127 yards rushing and three TDs were also highlighted.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at

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.