Long before Ian Ward had the opportunity to witness Kyle Sandoval’s speed and style in the hurdle events, he knew about him.
Ward had been the best freshman hurdler on the Servite track and field team the year before, but what he heard from a fellow student on campus stopped him in his tracks.
“Someone had told me at school, someone’s coming, and they run a 40,” Ward said.
The student was referring to Sandoval’s time in the 300 hurdles. Sandoval had run the event in the 40-second range while a freshman at Colony High School in Ontario. Ward’s best time in the event the year before was 43 seconds.
“I don’t believe a lot of people, but when you hear someone that’s coming in as a transfer, I had the thought that he might be good,” Ward said.
A rivalry was soon born between Ward and Sandoval, but it never got past the luke-warm stage and they soon became good friends and regular training partners.
“It’s competitive, but once you realize someone is on your team and they’re training with you, they’re there to make you better, so just finishing the race alongside them, it just made both of you better,” Ward said. “So the competitiveness and being both friends and being able to train together, it makes it all the better.”
Fast forward from their first meeting three year ago and Ward and Sandoval have done more than just push each other toward individual titles. They led the Friars to their first Southern Section team championship on May 20.
Sandoval won the 110 hurdles in Division 3 and Ward was third in the event. Ward came back to finish third in the 300 hurdles and Sandoval was fourth. Ward also ran a leg on the 400 relay team that finished second.
Those events accounted for 36 of the 59 points Servite earned to edge second-place Gahr of Cerritos by 19 points.
“It was kind of nervous the whole time because we knew anything can happen in track, but it was very exciting,” Sandoval said. “I was so happy that we won as a team and then individually. I couldn’t have asked for a better season.”
For the two hurdlers, the season was a fitting end to three years of pushing each other every day after school and often on weekends. They trained year-round for the first time this past year and that seemed to take them to another level.
They also had each other to lean on during down times.
Sandoval had a hamstring injury during his junior year and was unable to defend his Trinity League title in the 110 hurdles. Ward won league titles as a sophomore and junior in the 300 hurdles, but finished second as a senior.
“At practice, it’s always a competition, whether it’s in the 200s, in the weight room, we always compete,” Sandoval said. “It’s never like, ‘Oh, I’m just trying to beat you. I want you to be lower than me.’ It’s always like, we’re going to bring each other up and try to both focus on our goals while helping each other out at the same time.”
This season won’t be the end of Sandoval and Ward as teammates. Both are set to attend UC Irvine in the fall and continue running track and field.
“This year, we’re like, ‘OK, we both can get in [to UCI] and we’re both probably going to end up there. Let’s try and go all out and enter as competitive freshman and both do really good things,’” Sandoval said.
That’s hurdle doesn’t figure to get in their way either.