For as far back as it would like to remember, the Ridgewood girls cross country team has played second fiddle to Plant High School.
Strike up the band, 'cause nothing has changed.
Despite the efforts of Ridgewood's Stacey Jones, Charlotte Robson and Stephanie Barndollar, who finished fourth, fifth and seventh respectively, the Rams had to settle for second place in the Class 5A, District 5 meet at Crescent Lake Park Thursday afternoon.
Plant's freshman sensation Caroline Annis won her first race of the year in a time of 11 minutes, 15 seconds for 2 miles, edging Clearwater's Shannon Burcham (11:17) in a thrilling finish. Burcham came into the meet on an eight-race winning streak.
Annis' teammate Rayanne Lawrence finished a strong third (11:43) to give the defending district and state champions the district team title with 29 points. Ridgewood was second with 49 points, Gulf was a distant third with 106 points.
"We've been behind them for the last four years," said Ridgewood coach Glenn Cable. "But this is the closest we've gotten to them. I'm proud of all their efforts."
The Ridgewood smiles on a windy afternoon came mostly from Jones, Robson, Chantell Titus and Tara Ramirez all of whom ran personal bests in an 18-team district meet.
"I'm very happy. I ran my personal best and I felt great today," Jones said. "We planned to all pull out ahead and try to stay with (Plant) once they started to make their move, it was important that we stayed together as a pack."
Robson said she was pleased with her performance considering she didn't feel well and was somewhat hampered by the nippy weather.
"I'm not used to this kind of weather and I really didn't feel that great," Robson said. "But considering that I didn't know how I was going to run against them, I think I did fine."
The story was the same for the boys. Ridgewood senior Matt Krcmaric shrugged off an impressive last-mile effort from Largo's Chris Bruns and Lee Speilberger and won the boys' individual title in a slow 15:49 for 3 miles. But Bruns (16:06) and Speilberger (16:07) had the last laugh.
The Packers got eighth- and ninth-place finishes from Jacob Zamitto and Josh Norsworthy respectively and took the team title with 42 points. Ridgewood, which also had senior Ian Finn (fourth, 16:08) place among the top five, came in second with 64 points. Tampa's Jesuit was third with 118 points. Springstead placed 11th with 284 points.