Friendly competition

By Joseph Garcia

Best friends Andrew Waller-Dela Rosa (left) and Cameron Cardwell (right) race neck-and-neck with Brian Cantwell behind them in the 800-meter run. The Panthers went 1-2-3 in the race with Waller-De la Rosa, Cardwell and Cantwell sweeping the medals. (Photo by Doug Germann)

A little friendly competition never hurt anyone. But the way track teammates and friends Cameron Cardwell and Andrew Waller-De la Rosa compete in practice; it’s a wonder neither have.

Both seniors at Liberty Hill High School, these long-time friends have competed with and pushed each other to be the best they can be on the track.

Don’t be fooled, these two want to beat each other for bragging rights. But when the race is over, they can shake hands and be friends again.

“Me and Cameron feed off of each other,” said Andrew Waller-De la Rosa. “We are such rivals, but at the same time we are best friends. Every practice is pretty much a race and we finish everything as hard as we can. We’ll say we’ll take it slow, but we always feel like we have to win. I love that drive that both of us have.”

Just an example of the friendly-competitive dynamic the duo shares is what took place before loading up the busses for the District Meet in Lampasas.

“He was like, ‘let’s sit together on the bus’, and I said no, we’re enemies now,” Waller-De la Rosa said. “But afterward we always hug and it doesn’t matter who wins. He is the best competition I could ask for. He keeps me on top of my game always.”

On top is where the pair finished in the Regional Meet beginning with the 400-meter dash. Waller-De la Rosa took the gold, finishing in 49.35 seconds. Cardwell was right behind him, snatching the silver with a time of 49.81

In their second race of the day, Waller-De la Rosa and Cardwell once again finished 1-2 (1:56.41 and 1:56.55), with their buddy Brian Cantwell (1:59.29) earning a bronze medal and a trip to Corpus Christi for the Regional Meet.

Finally, with all eyes on them, the team of Cantwell, Waller-De la Rosa, Nik Crozier and Cardwell won the final race of the meet in the 4×400-meter relay.

In total, Waller-De la Rosa took home three gold medals and a bronze for the team’s third place finish in points, while Cardwell earned a gold, two silver and a bronze.

“They both ran well tonight,” said Liberty Hill men’s track and field coach Jimmy Duncan. “They have pushed each other ever since they’ve known each other. It’s a great thing to have somebody right there with you. They are best of friends and they’ve kind of set the example for our younger kids. We went 1-2 in the JV 800-meter too, so we’ve got a lot of kids who are kind of emulating what they’ve done. It’s a great thing to watch, I just wish they weren’t seniors.”

Cardwell said he ignored any pain he felt down the stretch of the 4×400 and perhaps wouldn’t have been as completive on the track to this day if it wasn’t for Waller-De la Rosa pushing him in the District Meet or just practice.

“I have to say that it’s probably the best competition that you can get,” Cardwell said. “I enjoy it and its made high school a lot of fun. (Practice) gets pretty tiring after a while just because there is that competition every day. But, I‘m glad I get to race with him.”

Now the friends are preparing for three races in the Regional Meet in Corpus Christi to be held April 27-28.

Cardwell said that regionals are going to be one of the bigger challenges they have faced because of the three preliminary heats they have to qualify in April 20 for their three races.

Both young men participated in last year’s Regional Meet. Cardwell remembers a special moment he shared with his friend at the time.

“Last year when I went to regionals, we ran the 800-meter finals and it was the first time I had beaten (Andrew),” he said. “So, it was bittersweet because I finally got to that point where I could beat him, but I also felt so sad for him. He’s my friend and when the day is over, that’s what we are. It’s going to be really tough, but I think we can do it. I really think that both of us can make it to State, but we’ll just take it one step at a time.”