The Philomath High School boys track and field team won the Oregon West Conference Championships at Sweet Home on Saturday by a slim margin — 4 seconds and 2 points.
Philomath and Newport were tied in the team standings going into the 4-by-400-meter relay, the meet’s final event. With sophomore Simon King, junior Ben Hernandez, freshman Warwick Bushnell and junior Brody Bushnell running on the relay, the Warriors were favorites to take the prize. And they came through with a time of 3:36.35, just under 4 seconds faster than the runner-up Cubs.
Those two teams will see each other again at the 4A State Championships Friday and Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene.
“Our boys were aware of how close it would be and after disqualification in the 4-by-100 relay, they knew they had to step up and find those points elsewhere,” said PHS coach Joe Fulton, who calculated before the meet that the Warriors would win by two points. “Newport gave us a spirited race but our Warriors prevailed … to secure our first district team title since 2011 — the same year our boys won the state title.”
The final standings showed Philomath winning with 153 points to Newport’s 151. Brody Bushnell was named the meet’s outstanding track athlete.
The Warriors qualified six athletes in nine events. Both Bushnell brothers and Hernandez will head to Eugene in two individual events and the long relay; junior Micah Matthews qualified in three individual events; junior Mateo Candanoza punched his ticket in two distance events and King made it as part of the 4-by-400.
Those six athletes accounted for 126 of the team’s 153 points.
With the girls also finishing first, it’s the first time since 2001 that Philomath won both team titles at the conference championships. For the boys, it was the program’s fourth team title since 2000.
Philomath flexed its muscle in both the 800 and 1,500 with 1-2-3 finishes. In the 1,500, the Warriors qualified all three with Brody Bushnell (4:10.10), Hernandez (4:10.46) and Candanoza (4:12.77). In the 800, Brody Bushnell (2:03.11), Hernandez (2:03.86) and King (2:06.70) were the first three across the finish line.
Along with the Day 1 results in the 3,000 of Candanoza winning (9:24.55) and junior Jesse Erickson finishing fourth (9:44.41), the Warriors scored 63 points alone in just those three events.
Fulton said Monday that for state, Hernandez has chosen to focus on the 1,500 with King moving up into the qualifying spot in the 800.
Matthews, the team’s designated point-producing workhorse, heads to state in both hurdling events along with the pole vault. Matthews won the 110 hurdles in a race that wasn’t even close (15.75) and also took the top spot in the 300 hurdles by a fair margin (42.27). And despite having no full-time pole vault coach, Matthews won the event by clearing 11-9. He also earned the team valuable points in the high jump when he tied for third (5-6).
Warwick Bushnell’s recent transition into the long sprints paid off with a victory in the 400 (53.30) and runner-up in the 200 (24.39).
Others scoring points for Philomath were senior Isaac Lattin with third in the triple jump (39-9.75), fifth in the long jump (19-0) and sixth in the javelin (124-0), junior Nixon Mooney with fourth in the 400 (54.83), senior Caleb Jensen with fourth in the long jump (19-5.25), senior Bryan Thomas with sixth in the 400 (56.17), freshman Hudson Raab with seventh in the long jump (18-7.25) and junior Seth Arthurs with eighth in the triple jump (37-8).
Fulton named Mooney and Thomas as alternates on the state-qualifying 4-by-400 relay.
Editor’s note: This story was revised with information from the coach on participation in the 800 and 1,500 at state.