Four Emerald League races are scheduled to take place at Willamette Pass Resort. (Photo by Justin Lader/Getty Images via Canva)

Warrior Watch is Brad Fuqua’s midweek look at Philomath High athletics with his takes on the school’s sports teams.

Sophomore Joe Barnes and freshman Ana Candanoza are competing with the Philomath High Alpine Ski Team, hitting the slopes for the first time this winter at an event at Mount Hood last weekend.

Known simply as PHAST, Barnes and Candanoza will compete with the Mid-Valley Race Club team, which includes student skiers from Philomath, Corvallis, Crescent Valley, South Albany and West Albany. The club is one of four teams in the Emerald League, which is a member of the Oregon Interscholastic Ski Racing Association.

Joe’s dad, Marc Barnes, with the support of high school administrators organized PHAST in 2017 with another son, Luc Barnes, and Reagan Schaffer both competing that first year.

“Ana is super excited about being on the team and about last weekend when she did well and hopefully she sticks with it for the next four years — and Joe, I think, will stick with it,” Marc Barnes said.

Joe Barnes was the lone PHAST skier last season as a freshman.

Other clubs in the Emerald Ski League include the Eugene Alpine Race Club (Churchill, North Eugene, South Eugene, Marist Catholic, Oak Hill, Sheldon, Springfield, Thurston and Willamette) and Redmond Schools Ski Racing (Crook County, Culver, Redmond, Redmond Proficiency Academy and Ridgeview). Sisters High also has an interscholastic team that competes on its own.

Those teams ski against each other during the league’s six-race season — four of those at Willamette Pass Resort near Crescent Lake and two at Hoodoo Ski Area near Sisters. Out of those results, skiers qualify for the state championship race, scheduled for March 1-3 at Hoodoo.

The kids participated this past weekend at Mount Hood Meadows in the sixth annual Kelsey’s Sportsmanship Race. Marc Barnes estimated that around 300 boys and 300 girls showed up from around the state to get their skiing legs under them and race for time (but it was not a scored event).

The race was named in memory of Kelsey Hewitt, a former OISRA ski racer, who with her father helped establish the Grant-Cleveland ski team. She died in a skiing accident at Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 2015.

“They both went up and actually did really well,” Marc Barnes said. “Ana had never competed before and she got 29th and my son, Joe, got 10th.”

Look for updates on how the skiers are doing in the coming weeks, along with a feature story later on after they’ve got a few races in.

PHS basketball boys still No. 1

A loss to one of the largest and most competitive teams in Alaska didn’t hurt the Philomath High boys basketball team’s Class 4A rankings. The Warriors remained in the No. 1 position earlier this week with the release of the OSAAtoday coaches poll. Philomath is also a strong No. 1 in the OSAA rankings (with Junction City at No. 2, a team the Warriors have defeated twice).

Other Oregon West teams in the coaches poll include Cascade at No. 2, Stayton at No. 5 and North Marion and No. 6. So, yes, the conference looks very tough this season and whoever comes out as the champion should have a pretty good shot to go all the way (teams like Baker or Seaside may have something to say about that).

For the girls, Philomath is sitting in the No. 9 position in both the coaches poll and the OSAA rankings. The Warriors will be in contention to repeat as conference champions with Cascade and Stayton looking like the top contenders right now.

Both teams will play at home on Friday against Madras. At the request of the opposing school, the start times were flipped with the boys to play at 5:30 and the girls at 7.

PHS still needs pole vault coach

The search for a pole vault coach continues with the school district currently advertising to try to fill the position.

Philomath High track and field coach Joe Fulton lost his longtime pole vault coach, Dennis Phillips, to retirement prior to the 2022 season. As Fulton told me last year, a pole vault coach is important “because that’s a much more dangerous event and you need somebody out there with those kids all of the time.”

The assistant coaching position is paid a stipend.

Athletic Director Tony Matta said the program appeared to have a pole vault coach set up to join Fulton’s staff but that individual ended up taking a position elsewhere.

Phillips, who is in his mid-70s and still competes in all-comers meets, held the position for 34 years.

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

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Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

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.

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