Fierce rivalry drives Fairfield hurdler to regional title

Cameron Kitson and Clayton Cooks have battled in the 110 high hurdles all season. But only one could wear the regional crown.

Posted on May 31, 2014 at 9:18 a.m.

SOUTH BEND — Cameron Kitson felt a surge of anger as he watched Clayton Cook stumble off the track.

The Wawasee junior had injured his hamstring while running the 200 in the Goshen sectional May 22, and it upset Kitson to see one of the top runners in the area go down.

Cook isn’t even Kitson’s teammate.

They are friends, but they are also fierce rivals in the 110 high hurdles.

And Kitson wanted Cook at his best for the South Bend regional meet.

“I was almost as mad as him — well, probably not as mad — but I was pretty upset because he is my competition,” the Fairfield hurdler said. “I (set a personal record) almost every time I run against him.”

Cook recovered well enough to compete in the regional Thursday. Unfortunately for him, Kitson entered the regional feeling the best he had in two weeks.

“I went up to (Fairfield track coach Bob) Miller and I said, ’I'm feeling just like I did that night at conference when I ran that 14.79,’” Kitson said. “I can just feel it when I'm ready to go.”

The two lined up side by side on the toasty track at South Bend St. Joseph. The starting gun sounded and Kitson took an early, comfortable lead.

Cook quickly closed the gap and Kitson knew he had to kick it into the next gear to maintain control.

"I saw him right beside me and that’s when I started snapping my lead leg down a lot more and working on that speed in between the hurdles,“ Kitson said. 

Kitson blazed through the finish line with a time of 14.72 — a personal best — while Cook came in at 14.98. The Fairfield senior grabbed his first regional win over a good friend and rival. He’ll advance to state for the first time.

The regional marked the fifth time Kitson and Cook squared off. Kiston said Thursday was the second time he’s beaten Cook.

Since Cook finished second, the two will race again at the state meet June 7 in Bloomington.

“It’s a good thing that Cameron won tonight,” Cook told Stacey Page Online after the race. “He’s a good friend of mine and he deserves this regional championship.”

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