The Philomath High School boys and girls cross-country teams feature an impressive cadre of underclassmen that will keep the Warriors among the best within the conference and classification in the coming years.
But on Saturday at the Lake Woahink Invitational, a pair of PHS seniors stood out with impressive runs on the Honeyman State Park course. Hannah Hernandez won her fourth straight meet while Brody Gerig made his season debut with a top-10 finish.
In the overall picture, Philomath’s boys won the team title on a tiebreaker over Class 6A Wilson with the teams’ sixth runners deciding the winner. Siuslaw, the No. 1-ranked team in 4A, finished third three points back. The girls placed a close third behind Wilson, a ranked squad in 6A, and rival Siuslaw.
The performance by Gerig, who has been recovering from a stress fracture and was cleared to race, was notable in the varsity boys race. Freshman Brody Bushnell came in as Philomath’s top runner in seventh at 17:21.51 with Gerig in ninth at 17:31.39 and junior Grant Hellesto in 11th at 17:34.47 to give the Warriors three times under 18 minutes.
Junior Justin Enghauser in 16th (18:03.96) and junior Levi Knutson in 19th (18:07.32) rounded out Philomath’s top five for a team score of 62 points. Tied with Wilson for first, the sixth runners were looked at to determine the champion.
It wasn’t hard to figure out with both junior Sean Cummings (25th, 18:17.71) and freshman Mateo Candanoza (26th, 18:21.06) both finishing ahead of not only Wilson’s No. 6 runner, but its No. 5 runner.
For the girls, Hernandez has gone unchallenged really in all of her victories this season. In Saturday’s victory, she finished 28 seconds ahead of Siuslaw’s Hannah Rannow, a fellow senior that she’s raced many times in the past.
Senior Rivers Nuno finished 13th in 21:25.90 and senior Madison Bushnell placed 18th in 21:50.60. Rounding out the team’s top five were sophomore Kaeleigh Houchin (21st, 21:53.60) and junior Sarah McDaniel (33rd, 22:35.60), who just edged sophomore teammate Audrey Gerding (34th, 22:39.40). Sophomore Jazz Choi was 44th (23:52.20).
Earlier in the week, Philomath got in some course work Thursday at the Regis/Stayton High Invitational.
Coach Joe Fulton utilized the meet as an opportunity to become familiar with the course that will be used for the Oregon West Conference meet.
“We also got in a workout, running the first 2 miles easy before throwing in a fast mile at the end to work on targeting and kicking in,” Fulton said. “No pressure and the kids seemed to enjoy holding back in a race.”
Philomath’s top runners did not compete.
For the boys, Cummings, Knutson, Noah King and Enghauser ran the course. Girls that ran the course included Nuno, Bushnell, Houchin, McDaniel and Choi. Even holding back, the Warriors placed second in the team standings.
The teams now get ready for the 34th annual Paul Mariman Invitational on Saturday at PHS. A strong field of teams will be on hand for the meet, which begins at noon with middle school races. The varsity races are scheduled for 2 p.m. (girls) and 2:30 p.m. (boys).