Like many twins, Ben and Albert Rophie are used to doing things together. They do the morning announcements at Clearwater High together, they hang with the same friends, and they've earned the same grade in every honors and advanced placement course they took together. Now, the siblings will celebrate rising to the top of their class together, Ben as valedictorian and Albert as salutatorian. Not much separates the duo. Ben's GPA is 4.8491. Albert's is 4.8431.
The brothers say they're not overly competitive, helping each other with homework and group projects. "We tried to make it even, but we are not going to kill each other over it," Albert said.
In the end it was a test in middle school that gave Ben the edge.
"In elementary school we both took a gifted test and (Albert) scored a point higher than me," Ben said, "and in middle school, I scored a point higher than him so they wouldn't let him into the gifted class."
That class was geometry, and it counted toward Ben's high school GPA.
They say it doesn't matter who's No. 1 and who's No. 2. All that matters is that they did it together.
"We are basically the same person," Ben said. "We think so much alike, and we always say the same things. If a friend says something, I'll make a comment about it when (Albert's) not in the room, and Albert will make the same comment later."
When they're not in class together, the brothers are studying, fishing and swimming. Their friends describe them as attached at the hip.
"They're both very intelligent and get along very well together," said Wylie Rowe, 18, who has known the twins since freshman year. "They're very friendly, very kind, very funny."
Both love the arts, but Ben likes music and Albert enjoys drawing and painting.
Both said they enjoyed filming school announcements in the recording studio of their TV production class. In questionnaires the Tampa Bay Times asked of Pinellas County's valedictorians and salutatorians, the twins had slightly different takes on the experience.
Ben: "I never knew how much fun anchoring the morning announcements could be."
Albert: "My toughest high school memory would be waking up early and recording the morning announcements."
In their free time, the brothers also make videos together, sometimes music videos, sometimes comedies. The skills they developed filming and editing videos on their own earned them a place in filming the morning announcements, said their teacher Cara Ryan.
"I primarily teach my students to tell a story, to make a difference. I think if anybody can do it, it'll be these two," she said.
Recently, the brothers created two videos together and entered them separately in the ninth annual Walker's Rising Stars Scholarship Competition.
Albert's made it to the semifinals. Ben's earned a $1,000 scholarship.
The twins say graduating from high school is just one of many milestones they plan to share. Both are set to start at the University of Florida in the fall as premed students, and they're considering pursuing dentistry. Regardless of their focus, they said, they'll open a practice together.
"I love him," Albert said. "He's my best friend all the way."
"I'd say the same thing," Ben said.