One attends a large public school in Louisville, Ky., while the other attends a small private Christian school near Atlanta, Ga.
One is a rising junior, the other has already signed with Texas A&M University.
Yet, those are about the only differences between Butler High’s Tre’tez Kinnaird and Whitefield Academy’s Cameron Thornton.
Both of them are stars in the 800 meters, and both were teammates for the USA in last year’s World Youth Championships in Lille, France. And they’ve had a few battles, now—most recently at the Mobile Challenge of Champions.
“Even though the school that I attend (Butler) is pretty large, few guys come out for track,” Kinnaird said. “Few guys (on the team) are blessed to run those types of races (such as the Challenge).”
“Whitefield is a very small Christian school known more for basketball,” said Thornton. “In track and field, we don’t get a lot of competition during the season.”
That is, except when Kinnaird and Thornton lock horns in an 800-meter race—as they did Saturday.
Kinnaird won that battle, running a 1:51.77 to Thornton’s 1:51.80. In the first 200 meters, that race was anything was smooth, as both runners had to navigate through a very crowded field of 14. But Kinnaird took command soon after, forcing Thornton, the defending meet champion, to play catch-up.
Thornton eventually did, but Kinnaird had just enough left in the tank to secure the win. Yet, the results proved what a lot of observers said all along—the rivalry between Thornton and Kinnaird was just as intense as ever.
“The first 200, we didn’t get out as well as we wanted,” said Kinnaird. “I knew I had to sit back (to let the field sort itself out). I knew Cameron has run a 1:49, and I knew that if he was in front, he would have out kicked me.”
“Tre ran a crazy (good) race,” said Thornton. “It is what it is. The first 200 got a little ugly because there was some bumping. I know it’s going to be that way in college, so I’ll have to get used to it.”
How then, despite the vast difference in student body size, can Kinnaird and Thornton develop such a fierce, yet cordial rivalry in an event that demands not only speed and endurance, but also a killer instinct?
“I don’t know what makes this rivalry so special, but I think it all started when we competed in France,” said Thornton. “Even though we were rivals, we would up being roommates. We got a chance to hang out and do some things while we were there.”
“We’re enemies on the track, but we’re great friends off it,” said Kinnaird. “The first time we hooked up, it was at last year’s New Balance Outdoor Nationals. We were pretty deep in the 800, and then we ran at the World Youth Trials. Even though I won at the trials, Cameron and I both wound up going to France, and we really became close. I know we’re going to push each other. It’s great competition, and Cameron never backs down.”
They have faced off at least five times since last year, and there is the possibility they may face each other again.
“He’s going to be tearing it up in the 800 when he’s by himself next year,” said Thornton, who graduates this year. But I know I’ll see him again this year.”
“We may meet up at New Balance if Cameron doesn’t go to the Juniors,” said Kinnaird. I hope we do meet up again soon, because it’s a great rivalry.”