The Philomath High School boys cross-country team might just be the team to beat in Class 4A this season. And when the next round of coaches’ rankings roll out next week, don’t be surprised if the Warriors occupy the top spot.
The 34th annual Paul Mariman Invitational attracted the top five teams from the most recent collection of rankings with No. 1 Marist Catholic leading the way. Philomath and Sisters, tied for No. 2, also competed along with No. 4 Siuslaw and No. 5 Newport.
Thanks to a strong showing from the top 5, the Warriors won the meet by 11 points over runner-up Sisters.
“It’s huge ... it’s a dress rehearsal for state pretty much and we want to do well, so we feel confident going to the state meet because we need that drive to possibly take it all,” said PHS senior Brody Gerig, who placed ninth individually.
Three of the top five teams in those coaches’ rankings hail from the Oregon West Conference — Philomath, Sisters and Newport. But only two teams out of the league meet will advance to the state championships in Eugene.
Although that’s a fight that will unfold Nov. 2 up at Stayton, the local runners believe they will be running the Lane Community College course together as a team on the following weekend.
“We’re hoping to win state, actually, that’s our goal,” said Grant Hellesto, who placed eighth behind teammate Brody Bushnell and one spot ahead of Gerig. “I think it’s looking pretty good that we’re going to be able to do it. I’m very optimistic.”
Philomath compiled 59 points to win the team title over Sisters’ 70. Siuslaw finished third at 83, Marist fourth at 98 and Newport fifth at 106. Sixteen schools competed with full teams.
Meanwhile, Philomath senior Hannah Hernandez won the Paul Mariman Invite’s individual girls title for the third straight year with a time of 18:28.74. It was the fastest time she’s turned in this season and was about 30 seconds faster than her performance last year.
Tougher meets lie ahead for Hernandez, who wants to go out on top in her final season of high school cross-country.
“It’s about strategy at this point because all of us can run the exact same pace,” Hernandez said. “It’s just who can dig it out more.”
Freshman Brody Bushnell turned in the top time for Philomath with a 16:41.58 — the fast 5,000 meters he’s run in a high school meet. Siuslaw senior Brendon Jensen edged Bushnell at the finish by 54 hundredths of a second. Bushnell was just a little over 4 seconds out of a top 4 finish.
John Peckham, a junior from Sisters, took first place in 16:17.83.
As for Hellesto, he came in with a time of 16:46.40 for eighth. He’s happy with how his season has been going.
“I didn’t do as great as I would’ve liked to the last couple of races, but today was a really good reminder (of his good season) ... and our team is really, really good this year,” Hellesto said. “It’s a great dynamic and we’re all very talented so it’s been nice.”
Bushnell’s addition to the roster this season has impacted the upperclassmen.
“Oh yeah, Brody Bushnell, he’s kinda carrying the team,” Hellesto said. “It’s been super nice having him here, especially since Brody (Gerig) was unable to race the first part of the season. It’s been nice having him push me.”
Gerig placed ninth in 16:47.03 in just his second meet of the season. He returned to the lineup after sitting out because of a stress fracture in his tibia, an injury he sustained last spring during track season.
“I improved from my last race and I feel good at that pace, so I’m hopeful,” Gerig said about his chances this fall.
Besides those top three, junior Justin Enghauser also had an effective performance with his 13th-place finish in 16:59.06. Levi Knutson finished 22nd in 17:25.61 to round out those contributing to Philomath’s team score.
The No. 6 and No. 7 runners for the Warriors were junior Sean Cummings (26th, 17:32.95) and senior Noah King (55th, 18:32.77). The varsity boys race included 132 entrants.
Hernandez outdueled Siuslaw senior Hannah Rannow again this week to win a meet. With both running season-best times on a course that’s considered fast, Hernandez took first place by more than 6 seconds.
Hernandez approached the meet with a somewhat simple strategy — run at her own pace.
“I just thought, if I go at my pace and stay at my pace, I’m going to be fine and it’s not going to matter who’s near me because either they’re going to be able to stay with me or they’re going to fall apart,” Hernandez said. “From the start, I was like ‘start your pace’ and I did. I went a little bit faster but that’s OK, because in the first mile you have more cushion to do that.”
Hernandez has been a stellar runner all four years in high school but has also experienced challenges with finishing strong in races and on the big stage. She admitted that she was thinking a lot about how she wants to finish.
“I’m very known for the last few years, ‘when she gets to the end, she’s going to die’ and ‘if you pass her, she’s not going to go with you,’” Hernandez said. “So something I’ve been working this year is make that change when I finish. They don’t want to be near me (in the late stages of the race) ... I’m not going to just let them pass me. I’m going to be more fierce and that’s what I’ve been working on.”
Another senior, Rivers Nuno, has her eye on a strong finish to her Warriors career as well. Performing this season consistently as the team’s No. 2 runner, Nuno placed 11th at the Mariman Invite with a time of 20:18.63.
“My goal this season is to break 20, but I think as long as we’re all staying consistent and we just get closer together, than we have a chance to do something at state,” Nuno said.
Sophomore Kaeleigh Houchin finished 19th in 21:04.21, senior Madison Bushnell was 22nd in 21:17.59 and junior Sarah McDaniel was 33rd in 22:06.17 to give Philomath a team score of 81 points.
Marist Catholic won the meet with 37 points — the Spartans placed four runners among the top eight — with Siuslaw second at 52 and Philomath third. Sisters was 23 points behind the Warriors in fourth with 104 and Bandon was fifth at 151.
Philomath ran six in the varsity meet and filling the final spot was freshman Ingrid Hellesto, who finished a respectable 37th in 22:17.63. The field included 93 runners.
The Warriors will take a bit of a break from competition until an Oct. 23 appearance at the inaugural Creekside Cross Classic in Salem.
Paul Mariman Invitational
Saturday at Philomath
Team scoring: Philomath 59, Sisters 70, Siuslaw 83, Marist 98, Newport 106, Bandon 170, Catlin Gabel 191, Marshfield 215, Gladstone 267, Nestucca 289, Central Linn 298, Glide 327, Faith Bible Christian 360, Cascade 379, Jefferson 430, Oak Hill 435.
Top 10 individuals: 1, John Peckham, Sisters, 16:17.83; 2, Wiley Watts, Marist, 16:26.53; 3, Will Thorsett, Sisters, 16:26.69; 4, Evan Villano, Marist, 16:37.38; 5, Will Leonard, Catlin Gabel, 16:40.45; 6, Brendon Jensen, Siuslaw, 16:41.04; 7, Brody Bushnell, Philomath, 16:41.58; 8, Grant Hellesto, Philomath, 16:46.40; 9, Brody Gerig, Philomath, 16:47.03; 10, Isaac Cutler, Bandon, 16:48.84.
PHS Results: 13, Justin Enghauser, 16:59.06; 22, Levi Knutson, 17:25.61; 26, Sean Cummings, 17:32.95; 55, Noah King, 18:32.77.
Team scoring: Marist 37, Siuslaw 52, Philomath 81, Sisters 104, Bandon 151, Marshfield 180, Kennedy 209, Catlin Gabel 213, Central Linn 227, Cottage Grove 233, Newport 242, North Douglas 321.
Top 10 individuals: 1, Hannah Hernandez, Philomath, 18:28.74; 2, Hannah Rannow, Siuslaw, 18:35.13; 3, Ella Thorsett, Sisters, 18:45.48; 4, Lucy Tsai, Marist, 19:23.31;l 5, Jennifer Tsai, Marist, 19:41.80; 6, Isabella Zachem, Marist, 19:47.34; 7, Kate Bowen, Sisters, 19:54.01; 8, Emilie Nelson, Marist, 20:00.99; 9, Rylee Colton, Siuslaw, 20:01.30; 10, Anne Wartnik, Siuslaw, 20:13.35.
PHS Results: 11, Rivers Nuno, 20:18.63; 19, Kaeleigh Houchin, 21:04.21; 22, Madison Bushnell, 21:17.59; 33, Sarah McDaniel, 22:06.17; 37, Ingrid Hellesto, 22:17.63.
Team scoring: Philomath 20, Marist 40, Bandon 76, Newport 110, Siuslaw 143, Sisters 155, Cottage Grove 211, Cascade 243.
PHS Results: 1, Mateo Candanoza, 17:35.56; 3, Sam Cordova, 17:48.38; 4, Jayden Kelley, 17:52.83; 5, Adam Hernandez, 18:07.74; 7, Jace Barrett, 18:15.56; 10, Ben Hernandez, 18:22.48; 20, Micah Matthews, 19:10.78; 26, Isaac Denzer, 19:58.95; 33, George House, 20:33.71; 43, Casey McDaniel, 21:18.55; 49, Tyler Moade, 21:37.65; 64, Evan McDaniel, 22:40.73.
Team scoring: Marist 28, Philomath 37, Sisters 68.
PHS Results: 1, Audrey Gerding, 21:50.09; 3, Jazz Choi, 22:46.90; 6, Claire Cothern, 23:30.43; 19, Ally Todd, 25:57.50; 27, Amey McDaniel, 28:09.56; 34, Mackenzie Beddingfield, 30:24.14.