Janice Hellesto takes the handoff from Natalie Dunn in the 4-by-400 relay last weekend at Marist. Three of Philomath’s relays lead Class 4A so far this season — the girls 4-by-100 and 4-by-400 and the boys 4-by-400. (Photo by Eddy Pausch)

Warrior track and field athletes will have an opportunity to showcase their skills in front of home fans Saturday at the Philomath Invitational. Counting the home team, there will be 11 schools trying for top honors.

Nine teams sending athletes are in Class 4A — Cascade, Cottage Grove, Elmira, Junction City, Marist Catholic, Newport, North Marion, Philomath and Sweet Home. Two 1A schools from the area are also at the meet with Alsea and Eddyville.

The weather has been damp and temperatures chilly in recent days but things might be OK for Saturday’s meet. The latest forecast shows highs in the upper 50s with cloudy skies. 

Several Philomath athletes are ranked among the top five in Class 4A with the limited number of meets we’ve seen so far this season.

For the girls, both of Philomath’s relays lead the state. The 4-by-100 with junior Ellie Morton, sophomore Natalie Dunn, senior Ingrid Hellesto and sophomore Janice Hellesto had a time of 51.25 in the season opener. The 4-by-400 relay has a time of 4:20.82 with sophomore Anneka Steen, Ingrid Hellesto, Janice Hellesto and Dunn.

Individually, Dunn has the fastest time in the 400 with a time of 1:02.17. Janice Hellesto ranks No. 2 in the 400 (1:02.73) and No. 3 in the 200 (27.33). Senior Ingrid Hellesto is second in the 300 hurdles (49.57) and fifth in the 100 hurdles (17.84).

Steen ranks second in the triple jump (33-1) and fourth in the high jump (4-9). In the 800, sophomore Melea Lattin ranks No. 2 (2:31.19) and freshman Ana Candanoza is right behind at No. 3 (2:31.91). Sophomore Adele Beckstead ranks second in the 1,500 (5:11.33).

Sophomores Brooke McDaniel (12:14.65), Hanna McDaniel (12:16.46) and Kateri Pindell (12:19.16) rank fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 3,000. Morton is No. 5 in the high jump (4-8) and junior Madison Schaffer is No. 5 in the pole vault (8-0).

And there are several others that rank sixth, seventh and eighth that I didn’t mention here. In other words, a lot of point scorers on the PHS girls squad.

For the boys, the Warriors’ 4-by-400 relay has the best time in the state with the 3:35.19 they ran at the season-opening Mid Valley Dental Invitational. Senior Ben Hernandez, senior Nixon Mooney, sophomore Warwick Bushnell and senior Brody Bushnell ran on the relay.

Senior Micah Matthews is ranked No. 1 in the high jump with the 5-11.75 he cleared at the Summit Decathlon. The defending state champ in the 110 high hurdles, he currently ranks No. 2 in that event with a time of 16.14 seconds. And he’s fifth in the pole vault at a height of 12 feet.

Warwick Bushnell and Mooney are both among the top times in the 400 at 52.28 and 52.84, respectively, which ranks them second and third. In the 3,000, senior Mateo Candanoza ranks third at 9:29.35. Senior Seth Arthurs is fifth in the triple jump at 39-2.

In last weekend’s Marist Invite at Eugene, Philomath had some memorable moments (in addition to the delay because of hail), coach Joe Fulton reported.

“Kynlee Albin, a gymnast in her first long jump competition, did the famous gymnastics salute before heading down the runway,” Fulton said. “She placed sixth overall, but what really made us laugh was her mock belly flop into the sand after she scratched her final attempt.”

Other notes from Fulton:

“The pole vaulters also offered some levity as a few nearly sat on a most forgiving crossbar that somehow stayed on the standards.”

“The joy on the face of Delaney Thomas after her efforts in the 100 hurdles and 200 meters warmed my heart. No one on the team is more dedicated or works harder than Delaney.”

“And we had a rare sighting of the three wise monkeys: Hear No Evil, See No Evil and Speak No Evil. Though they claimed that their names were Danielle (Harris), Phoebe (Coen) and Kateri (Pindell).”

Top wrestlers in Reno

Philomath had three wrestlers compete in last weekend’s 26th annual Reno Worlds tournament in Nevada. Olivia Hernandez, Riley Barrett and Porter Compton all put in respectable appearances at the event, which is one of the biggest open youth tournaments in the United States.

Hernandez wrestles in the 12U girls division at 73 pounds, which had 17 competitors in her weight division. Hernandez won four of six matches and placed third overall. She advanced to the championship match and lost 2-1. That put her in a second-place match where Hernandez lost on an 8-0 decision. Leading up to the medal matches, Hernandez had wins of 13-0 (major decision) in the round of 16, 4-2 in the quarterfinals and 6-2 in the semifinals.

Hernandez wrestles with the Mat Sense club out of Corvallis.

Olivia Hernandez, seen here last year after winning at the Oregon Classic, placed third at the Reno Worlds last weekend. (Photo provided by Sal Hernandez)

Barrett and Compton, both freshmen at Philomath High, competed in the same 15U open 135-pound division, which had 111 entries. 

Riley, wrestling with the Salem Elite Mat Club, went 7-3 and placed sixth to earn the All-American designation. Barrett lost on a 9-7 tiebreaker decision in the fifth-place match. His victories included pins in 50 seconds and 55 seconds in the first two rounds and a 7-3 decision in a Round of 32 match.

Barrett lost on a 4-0 decision in the round of 16. In the consolation bracket, Barrett had wins on a pin in 48 seconds, a 7-0 decision, a 7-1 decision and a 4-0 decision. In the consolation semis, he dropped a 5-1 decision to end up in the fifth-place match.

Compton won five of seven matches. Early on, Compton had wins of 12-1 (major decision) and 5-1 followed by a pin in 2:30 to advance to the round of 16. But his luck ran out with a 6-1 loss.

In the consolation bracket, Compton had wins of 1-0 and 2-0 before losing 1-0 in the “blood round.”

Barrett and Compton are the first high school-level athletes from Philomath to compete at the Reno Worlds. Both had wrestled there at a younger age.

Ellie Morton competes last season for the PHS girls. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Girls wrestling sanctioned

Earlier this week, the Oregon School Activities Association’s delegate assembly voted unanimously to adopt girls wrestling as a sanctioned sport.

You could say this was historic for the OSAA — the last time a sport was officially added dates clear back to 1979 with softball. The change with girls wrestling goes into effect for the 2023-24 season.

“I think we always kind of saw this as the route,” OSAA executive director Peter Weber said in an OSAAtoday article. “This is kind of the natural evolution in our mind of the sport in Oregon.”

Wait a minute — wasn’t girls wrestling already sanctioned? What about the tournaments and the state championships? Yes, it’s a bit confusing but girls wrestling was added in 2018-19 only as a division under OSAA wrestling. It’s state tournament has been a part of the boys’ championships.

Under this change, girls wrestling becomes its own entity. Still, the OSAA said girls state will likely continue to be staged with the boys tournament.

“Everything’s going to look similar in the state as far as how tournaments are run and how schools are doing stuff,” said Hood River Valley Athletic Director Trent Kroll, who helped push for sanctioning. “What this does is it gives a little bit more equitable access for school districts to do more for a girls wrestling program.”

The Oregon Wrestling Association held its first girls state championships in 2007, eventually moving the tournament to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, site of the boys tournament. The OSAA awarded its first state championship trophies for girls wrestling in 2019.

In the past year, girls wrestling participation nationally increased 46% to 53,000. In Oregon, it went from 850 to 1,129.

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

Brad Fuqua

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.