Philomath teams, athletes, coaches and sports fans had moments to remember from the 2018 calendar year. The Warriors put together some nice seasons in various sports and advanced three of them to the state playoffs with boys basketball in the winter, softball in the spring, and volleyball, girls soccer, boys cross-country and girls cross-country in the fall.
Several individuals also wore the Warrior colors in state meets for wrestling, swimming, boys tennis, girls tennis and track and field, which had two state champion girls’ relay teams.
This year’s choice as the No. 1 sports story of the year came on Philomath High’s softball field. The Warriors did something that hadn’t been done in 34 years and that was to win a conference title. Coaching changes, a grandstands project, a revamped Oregon West, rodeo tweaks and accomplishments in tennis, girls soccer and cross-country also are among those in the top 10.
Editor Brad Fuqua selected the top 10 sports stories of the year using various factors, including the scale of accomplishments, community interest and newsworthiness, along with perceived interest through public events, comments, emails and interaction through social media channels.
1. Philomath High softball. For several years, Philomath High School’s fortunes in softball were limited to an occasional big win or a particular player receiving some recognition. But in 2018, the Warriors made history by winning a conference title for the first time since 1984 — a span of 34 years.
To make the title even sweeter, Philomath clinched with a 16-3 victory on May 3 over rival Newport. “To come out and beat a team that we’ve been rivals with for four years, it just feels so good, especially to 13-run them,” PHS senior Carrie Lillis said after hitting two home runs in the victory.
Philomath went on to qualify for the state playoffs for the first time since 2001 and reached the semifinals before falling to La Grande. The team ended up 22-6 for the season.
Six players made first team all-conference — Kamden Combs, Lillis, Reiley Reichhuber, Amie Russell, Hannah Williams and Kaili Saathoff. Erik Remington was named coach of the year. Lillis also made the all-state first team.
2. Coaches step aside. Two coaches that have contributed a lot to Philomath athletics over the years decided to resign in 2018. Dave Garvin, who had taken over the girls basketball program in 2013, left before the end of the season in late January. Shelly Brown finished out the season as the head coach.
Garvin had a long coaching history with the school, a run that included a state championship as the boys basketball coach in 2002. He earned a national coach of the year honor that season. Garvin said off-the-court issues had taken a toll on him and factored into his decision.
Less than a month later, Anton Grube, who coached the boys soccer team to a state title in 2012, announced that he was stepping aside. The father of two, Grube’s older daughter would be entering high school in the fall and he wanted to be able to see her play. With the way boys and girls soccer schedules are set up, that would be impossible if he continued to coach.
The school later hired Ben Silva as the girls basketball coach and Dave Ellis as the boys soccer coach.
3. Tennis program’s heights. Philomath High’s tennis program put together its best season in history with the boys winning their first-ever district team title. Doubles partners Luke Haslam and Antoine Feld took first place at districts and ended up as the runner-up at the state tournament at Oregon State University. Haslam, a sophomore, and Feld, a foreign-exchange student from Germany, became the first PHS doubles pair to ever advance that far at state.
In addition, Colton Beckstead battled to a consolation finals victory and for the girls, Gabi Beckstead advanced past the opening round.
4. Warriors football program. Philomath High hired its second coach in two years with the arrival of Tony Matta, a former South Albany coach and athletic director. Matta also joined the school’s administration as assistant principal and was named the Warriors’ AD.
Matta replaced Rob Shader, who ended up coaching the Warriors for just one season. Shader said he wanted to pursue a full-time teaching position, which wasn’t available to him at Philomath. He and his wife had also had a baby and he wanted to put family first as another reason for his decision to leave.
5. Oregon West Conference. The Oregon West Conference had some changes in membership that impacted Philomath’s schedules and opponents that programs had gotten used to playing in recent years.
North Marion and Yamhill-Carlton were out of the old Oregon West. An appeal ruling kept Cascade in the conference, which was a change from the Oregon School Activities Association’s previous decision to move the Cougars up to 5A.
Newcomers to the Oregon West that began play this fall included Sisters, Sweet Home and Woodburn.
6. Girls soccer’s streak. Philomath High’s girls soccer team qualified for the state playoffs for a 24th straight season. The Warriors reached the quarterfinals before falling to No. 1 Hidden Valley.
Philomath advanced past the first round for the third straight year and has an overall record of 30-23 in the state playoffs. The playoff streak dates back to 1995 and includes a state championship in 2008.
The Warriors finished as the Oregon West runner-up but was still an automatic qualifier to state. The team placed five on the all-conference first team with Quincey Pittman, Halle Hewitt, Alivia Pittman, Mia Rust and Kena Bacho.
7. Rodeo performance changes. Rodeo fans appeared to respond to a scheduling change that the Frolic implemented this year with the elimination of the Sunday matinee and addition of a full performance on Thursday night. The Thursday rodeo attracted 738 fans compared to the Sunday attendance of 472 in 2017 and 590 in 2016.
Chris Workman, Frolic & Rodeo president, said that despite dropping to a three-event schedule, attendance for the full weekend was up in 2018 over the last two years. This past summer, the rodeo drew 4,998 over its full run versus 4,480 in 2017 and 4,318 in 2016.
8. Clemens Field grandstands. A needed renovation project for the aging Clemens Field grandstands materialized this year with a big dose of support from the local community. Joey DiGiovannangelo, the school district’s maintenance director, spearheaded the effort through the support of a committee.
The scope of the work involved structural upgrades, concrete replacement to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, seat and roof replacement, new siding and a storage building. Business and individuals responded with significant donations of time, supplies and money.
A rededication ceremony on Sept. 21 recognized those who contributed to the effort.
9. Philomath High runners. One of the high school’s traditional strengths in athletics has revolved around running with stellar performances in the fall during cross-country season and in the spring in track. The Warriors didn’t disappoint in 2018.
In the spring at the state track meet, the last to ever be held at the old Hayward Field in Eugene, the Warriors’ girls placed third in the team race and had victories in the 4x100 relay (Phaedra Hinds-Cook, Melia Morton, Hannah Bovbjerg, Maggie Ross) and 4x400 relay (Hinds-Cook, Hannah Hernandez, Bovbjerg, Morton). The girls had won the district title the previous week.
In the fall, the boys and girls cross-country teams both qualified for state out of a very tough district. Individually, Hernandez won another district title and placed fifth at state.
10. Timberhill Harriers. The Philomath-based Timberhill Harriers won the boys’ age 13-14 team title Dec. 8 at USA Track and Field National Cross Country Junior Olympic Championships in Reno, Nevada. The club easily took first place by a margin of nearly 100 points over the runner-up.
Philomath eighth-grader Brody Bushnell placed 15th overall and another Philomath runner, eighth-grader Mateo Candanoza, finished 70th. Also running were Benjamin Collins (12th), Henry Coughlan (13th), Alexander Garcia-Silver (18th), Blake Byer (19th), Michael Maiorano (34th) and Cade Byer (35th). The Byer boys are twins who run for Crescent Valley.
Other noteworthy sports stories in 2018 (listed in chronological order):
• Peter Finn was inducted into Philomath’s Legend Club for his contributions to local athletics for close to 30 years.
• Philomath swimmer James Dye places third in the 500-yard freestyle and fourth in the 100 butterfly at the state meet in Gresham.
• The Philomath High girls basketball team ends the season with a 10-14 record with a play-in loss to Brookings-Harbor.
• Philomath’s junior varsity girls basketball teams go a combined 35-0 during the 2017-18 season.
• Philomath defeats North Valley in a play-in game to reach the state boys basketball playoffs. Mazama eliminated Philomath in the first round. The Warriors ended the season with a 15-9 record. Senior Nolan Jackson was named to the Oregon West Conference’s first team in boys basketball.
• Philomath graduate Ben DeSaulnier finishes as Southern Oregon’s second-highest scorer in history in men’s basketball with more than 2,000 points.
• Four PHS wrestlers qualify for state — Joey Howell, Tony Rath, Keltin Benson and Connar Kohn. Howell and Rath both won sixth-place medals in Portland.
• Skier Luc Barnes finished third in both the slalom and giant slalom and fourth overall in the state while competing with the Philomath High Alpine Skiing Team. In the Oregon Interscholastic Ski Racing Association championships in March, Barnes won a bronze medal in the skier cross competition.
• Philomath baseball senior Kenan Conner throws a no-hitter in a 13-0 victory at Stayton.
• PHS sophomore Maggie Ross broke a 37-year-old record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.60 seconds at a meet in Cottage Grove. The old record has been set by Alice Best in 1981.
• PHS junior Rio Jensen took first place in the dressage at the Oregon High School State Equestrian Team Championships in Redmond.
• The Warriors’ baseball team finished the season with a 15-8 record after falling in a play-in game to Valley Catholic, 8-3.
• Seniors Nolan Jackson and Kenan Conner earned spots on the all-Oregon West first team in baseball. Jackson later played in basketball and baseball all-star games on the same weekend in Eugene and Roseburg, respectively. Conner also played in the all-star baseball game at Roseburg.
• Former Philomath baseball player Austin Gerding opened summer ball with the Corvallis Knights on a 10-day player contract.
• Softball players Hannah Williams and Kamden Combs play on elite club teams that see success around the country.
• Philomath graduate Haylie Bennett played her sophomore season with Oregon state’s volleyball team. After starting the fall as a starter, Bennett suffered an injury and missed several matches toward the end of the season.
• Longtime volleyball assistant Liz Dooley died in August. The PHS volleyball team postponed its season opener as well as a jamboree.
• The PHS football team opened the season with a 48-19 rout over Junction City but would go on to struggle from a win-loss standpoint with an overall record of 2-6 under first-year coach Tony Matta. Brooks Stearns earned a spot on the all-conference first team at linebacker.
• The Philomath boys soccer team beat defending state champion Newport, 3-2. The Warriors had several memorable moments during the season under first-year coach Dave Ellis but ended up missing out on qualifying for a play-in game.
• Philomath High’s volleyball team put together a 19-10 season and reached the state playoffs with a play-in win over Seaside but lost in the first round at Hidden Valley. All-conference first-team selections from the squad included Lindsey Luke and Joelle Berger.