Last Saturday in Hershey, Freedom Area's Jake DeWeese and Wes Roberts endured a challenging course and a highly competitive field of runners to achieve top 10 finishes in the PIAA Class A cross country championship meet.
These two Bulldogs runners live to race against each other.
"We kept trading on and off with the pace," DeWeese recalled about the PIAA race.
He and Roberts had been separated at the beginning. One mile in, DeWeese was in 23rd place while Roberts was 36th. Roberts was being chased by Our Lady of the Sacred Heart's Nick Kocent.
"I was trying to make up ground on [DeWeese] throughout the first mile," said Roberts.
Within half a mile, he did.
Roberts and DeWeese have an underlying agreement to compete with each other as individuals, but the competition made them work together on championship day.
"The pace started picking up, and [Roberts] took over for a while," said DeWeese. "We were able to push each other."
The pair entered a section of the course composed of U-turns and dips. It was hard to hold a steady pace over the disruptive terrain, but Roberts and De-Weese were 11th and 12th at the 2-mile mark.
Just ahead, they could see Trinity Christian's Ryan McGuire and Vincentian's Ryan Archer. As the course terrain stabilized and the path straightened, Roberts and DeWeese had a half mile to go.
The two Freedom runners managed to put Archer and McGuire into their rearview mirrors, leaving only each other as WPIAL competitors. It was Roberts who found the stride, putting four seconds between himself and DeWeese.
DeWeese remained focused.
"There was another kid I was trying to beat," he said.
DeWeese passed up Saegertown's Hunter Johnston to finish in 10th place. DeWeese's time in the race was 16:43, four seconds behind his teammate, Roberts, who finished ninth with a time of 16:39.
The two were the fastest WPIAL Class A runners.
Roberts' and DeWeese's ninth and 10th place finishes -- as well as the 10th-place finish of Dee Dee Adams in the Class A girls' race -- netted Freedom Area three PIAA bronze medals on Saturday. But the accolades of the day came from business-as-usual for Roberts and DeWeese.
"Wes and I always try to beat each other even though we don't really talk about it," explained DeWeese.
"We're rivals and buddies at the same time," said Roberts. "There are no hard feelings when one of us beats the other one."