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Ben Woodward and Yarayah Hawkins

Cal's Column: Highland's Ben Woodward and Yarayah Hawkins enjoy rivalry

05/25/2018, 9:15am EDT
By Kevin Callahan SJSD

The two middle distance runners will meet in the 1,600 during the South Jersey sectionals

Ben Woodward and Yarayah Hawkins didn’t compete Monday night at the Haddonfield Invitational. Instead, the Highland High School star middle distance runners walked downtown and got some food. They brought their dinner back to the infield and ate together while watching the races and encouraging their teammates.

You might think since they are competing to be the best in South Jersey in the 1600 that they would be rivals, but it’s not that way. They eat together. They train together. They push each other to be the best.

Two weeks ago, they finished 1-2 at the Camden County Championships in the 1,600 meters with both running personal bests. Woodward won gold in 4:23.56 while Hawkins took silver in 4:24.31.

Up next, Woodward and Hawkins will line up alongside  each other again in the 1,600 this weekend during the sectionals.

“He is my training partner, we help each other out,” Woodward said. “We are getting better together and that is what team is all about.”

They are also teammates on the Tartans talented cross-country squad.

“When it comes down to it, we really don’t care who wins it, we try to get 1-2,” Hawkins added while standing next to his friend.

Woodward, a senior, was the South Jersey Group 3 champion in the 3,200 last May while Hawkins, a junior, was the South Jersey Group 3 champ in the 1,600 last outdoor season.

So the friendly rivalry is on in the 1,600 for Woodward and Hawkins.

“I just worry about dropping my times,” Hawkins said. “Coach always tells us if you run your race the time will come.”

Woodward has his sights split on the 3,200 as well. He won the Camden County title with a 9:35.13, breaking his personal best by almost five seconds.

“Up until the county meet, I thought of myself more of a miler and an 800 guy,” Woodward said. “I’ve been trying to break 9:40 for two years and it finally happened, now I think I can run faster too.’

Hawkins also specializes in the 800. At the Camden County Championships, he placed second with a 1:58.6 behind Highland’s Nuriddin Wise, who ran a 1:58.26.

“I don’t think I’m peeking,” Hawkins said. ”I just think I’m going to get there, probably around the Meet of Champs.”

And, although, their goals are the same and they are running against each other, they don’t run the same.

“I say kick wise, he is probably faster than me,” said Woodward, who won the state indoor title in both the 1,600 and 3,200. “When I race, I’d like to try to sit behind people. In winter track, it was kind of weird for me because for the first time I had to take over about half way in both the mile and the 3,200 and I’m not used to doing it, but I’m getting more used to doing it.”

Unfortunately, they didn’t run at the Penn Relays since they were bumped out the week before by 1/10 of a second, but they both went to Franklin Field to watch.

They didn’t run at the Haddonfield Invitational either, but they did eat dinner together.

This weekend, though, they will be running against each other. And they will be running fast, pushing each other with every stride.

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