This weekend’s 4A girls cross-country meet in Eugene will likely come down to Philomath vs. La Grande. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Class 4A cross-country meet this weekend in Eugene will have some interesting angles when it comes to Philomath High’s participation. For the girls, it appears to be a Philomath vs. La Grande showdown for the title and for the boys, the Warriors should be in the hunt for a fourth-place trophy.

The meet’s 4A races are scheduled for Saturday at 11:45 a.m. for the girls and 12:20 p.m. for the boys at Lane Community College. Be sure to get there in plenty of time because there is usually a pretty good walk to the stadium from where you’ll need to park. The 4A awards will follow the boys’ race with team trophies to the top four and individual medals to the top 10.

Admission into the meet will run $12 for adults and $6 for students (age 5 up through a senior in high school).

La Grande won the state title last year for the girls and has some pretty good athletes back for another run at first. Junior Cecilia Villagomez and sophomore Brooke Petty rank 1-2 in the state with top times under 19 minutes. A third runner from the Tigers ranks fifth and a fourth ranks 11th.

But then there’s a drop-off when it comes to team depth and Philomath could be in position to pick up pivotal points to put the team over the top. Running for the Warriors will be junior Adele Beckstead, sophomore Ana Candanoza, sophomore Lucy King, junior Melea Lattin, junior Hanna McDaniel, junior Hallie Morrison and junior Kateri Pindell.

Notice how there are no seniors in that lineup? (Next season could also be very interesting).

Philomath has a level of talent that could place the five scoring runners in the top 30 and all seven in the top 50. Candanoza and Beckstead will compete for top-10 medals and will have key La Grande runners to beat on the course. Lattin, King and Morrison could be in contention for the top 25. Philomath’s No. 5 runners will be an important factor with the team scoring.

In all, 13 full teams and eight individual qualifiers will compete for medals.

The girls have a long history of success. The girls program has qualified teams for state 42 times over the past 44 years — missing only in 2011 and 2012 over that stretch. The program had a 31-year streak going from 1980 to 2010.

The Philomath boys will run freshman Jacob Hernandez, sophomore Lukas Hernandez, senior Simon King, junior JJ Lewis, freshman Galen Murch, sophomore Leo Pausch and sophomore Mason Stevens.

Heading into the meet, Lukas Hernandez and Pausch should be in the running for top-25 finishes, perhaps even the top 10. Hernandez comes into Eugene with the 11th-best time in 4A with Pausch at 18th.

The boys have qualified for state in 39 of the past 40 years.

“The only year they didn’t qualify was 2017 when we tied for second at district with Newport but the Cubs went based on the No. 6 runner’s placings,” PHS coach Joe Fulton said. “Then Newport placed third at state which indicated we were likely a top-four team that year.”

The situation forced the OSAA to rethink how it qualifies teams for state.

“Wild-card berths were not awarded at the time but the fact that a very good Philomath boys’ team did not get to race at state is one of the reasons that the OSAA started the at-large selection,” Fulton said.

The meet will feature 13 full teams along with nine individual qualifiers. Cottage Grove junior Carter Bengtson will be favored to win with times this season that have easily outdistanced most opponents. But Phoenix senior Kael Feeley, Marshfield sophomore Jaxson Stovall and the Newport runners may have what it takes to challenge him. Nothing’s a given when it comes to state cross-country meets.

Newport will have a strong shot at the team title with Crook County and possibly The Dalles challenging. Philomath will likely need to beat out Molalla and Phoenix to nab that No. 4 spot.

PHS junior Sophia Bauer moves the ball against Molalla Tuesday. Philomath and Hidden Valley will meet in the state playoffs for the first time since 2018. The Mustangs won the game and went on to take the state title that season. (File photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Girls soccer team to face Hidden Valley

The Philomath High girls soccer team defeated Molalla Tuesday to advance past the first round again this season. The Warriors will next head to Hidden Valley for a Saturday evening quarterfinal in Grants Pass. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.

The Warriors and Mustangs haven’t met since 2019 when Hidden Valley posted a 1-0 win in the season opener. The school has been very successful in the sport over the years, which includes three state titles — the most recent in 2018 — and appearances in four of the last five championship games (not counting the showcase tournament year of COVID).

PHS senior Kamilla Grimmer has been a goal-scoring machine this year with 32 but the Warriors have several weapons when on the offensive, including senior Bailey Bell. Grimmer scored twice (penalty kick, free kick) and Bell also found the net in the win over Molalla.

Hidden Valley slipped past Ontario, 1-0, in its first-round game on a Gracelyn DeVault goal in the first half.

The Warriors have advanced past the first round every year since Mat Phelps took over as head coach in 2016. The team made it to the semifinals in 2017. In 2020, the 4A showcase tournament featured eight top teams and the Warriors reached the semifinals.

As far as common opponents, there are none between Philomath and Hidden Valley. The Warriors have a 5-2 record against teams that reached the playoffs — one of those losses to No. 1 Marist Catholic and a conference split against No. 3 North Marion. The Mustangs have a 1-1-1 record against playoff teams with the loss and tie both coming against Henley.

The timing of the cross-country meet and the soccer game shouldn’t be an issue for three athletes that participate in both sports. Ana Candanoza, Melea Lattin and Kateri Pindell are key athletes in both programs. They would have a trip of about 2-1/2 hours between Eugene and Grants Pass.

Philomath Middle School won the Stumptown Youth XC Championships Sunday at Western Oregon University. (Photo provided by Brian Skaar)

Middle school girls win state

At the middle school level, the local cross-country program continues to roll along. This past weekend, the Braves took first place at the Stumptown Youth XC Championships on the Ash Creek Preserve course at Western Oregon University in Monmouth.

The PMS girls won every meet this season — often by considerable margins.

“The effort to improve before the season started and during the season was impressive,” PMS coach Brian Skaar said.

The Braves came up just short of winning state titles in 2021 and 2022.

“Two years ago, sixth graders Cassidy Smart and Reagan Nuno, along with then-eighth graders, now PHS sophomore cross-country standouts, Ana Candanoza and Lucy King, along with Maggie King, took second at the middle school state meet and were really bummed to not get that top spot,” Skaar said. “Last year, even with the addition of sixth-grade speedster Sienna Bushnell, the make up of the team wasn’t quite right to achieve the top spot but this year was a different matter from the start.”

Philomath won the state meet at Monmouth with 69 points to outdistance runner-up The Dalles with 106. Individually, The Braves had two runners in the top 15. Smart was fourth in 11:00.6 (the middle schoolers run a 3K) and sixth grader Olivia Hernandez was 13th in 11:24.2.

“Cassidy, Reagan and Sienna continued to lead the group, but it was the addition of two sixth graders, Olivia Hernandez and Noelle Gonzalez Bush, that made the team dominant in the scoring,” Skaar said. “Not far off their pace was seventh grader Andrea Beckstead and eighth grader Nasali Antriasian.”

Things are setting up nicely for another run at the title next season. Skaar said of the 10 girls that raced at state last weekend, seven will return in 2024.

Philomath’s boys placed 10th at the meet. The top individual was sixth grader Riggins Bushnell (41st, 10:23.3).

(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.