Last year, Glen Cable was baffled. His heavily favored Ridgewood team tripped and stumbled and fell at the district track meet, although it still won by a mere point and a half.
"It was crazy," Cable said.
Thursday night, the Rams did not fall. They crushed and clobbered the field to win a second straight Class 5A, District 8 district championship.
While advancing athletes to next week's regionals is paramount at districts (the top four in each event go), the Rams made a statement by scoring 168 points. It was so not-close that Gulf erupted into the largest cheer of the night when it pulled into second place on the last event.
"Tonight was do-everything-you-can-do night," Cable said. "Next week it will be do what you do best."
Many of the Ram qualifiers will concentrate on one or two of their best events. Robbie Klinger, for example, was third in the triple jump but will probably skip the jump next week to concentrate on the 400 meters, which he won in 50.66.
"Klinger looked real strong to me," Cable said. "He looked like he had lots left after that race. He probably won't triple jump next week so he can concentrate on the 400."
After all, that's where the Rams' strength will lie next week, in the running events they dominated Thursday. In the 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 runs, where Klinger, Jason Wills, Jesse Lent, Jeff Shuhert, John Woods, James Vitale, Dave Kennedy and Dave Thomas secured 10 of the 16 qualifying spots.
They also will send three pole vaulters, including surprise winner Eddie Haab (12 feet, 6 inches). Haab also qualified in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay.
In the girls competition, the Rams were surprisingly terrific, considering they were without Char Foster and Fannie Holmes, who would have been good for 70 points combined. Still, Ridgewood whipped the field with a 196-point effort.
The Rams did it with names you don't often see. Margarita Salas qualified for the regional in the 100, 200, long jump and 4x100; Jessica Penokie won the 300 hurdles (tied with favorite Challis Weerts of Land O'Lakes) and qualified in the pole vault; Sara Mercer was third in the 3,200, and Nancy Edwards and Emanda Doscher qualified in the triple and high jumps respectively.
The Rams boys and girls combined to send more than 40 athletes to regionals.
At the Class 4A, District 8 meet at Central, the Pasco boys and Hudson girls had solid showings by taking third behind Central and Hernando.
Without the injured John Capel running, Pasco's Norman Graham finished second in the 100 (10.72) and 200 (22.89), anchored the winning 4x100 relay, and also qualified in the long jump.
The Pirates also got wins from Roosevelt Miller in the long jump and Travis McKeever in the discus.
Crystal Videgar is going back to the regional in multiple events after qualifying in the high jump and 400 meters (both of which she won), the long and triple (second) and the 200 (third). Amber Swaim won the pole vault with a leap of 9-6, her best this season.
Pasco's Amber Stinyard was second in the 100, 200 and shot put and third in the long jump, while Jessica Robinson qualified in both hurdles events.
Zephyrhills' Pam Moses and Renae Neale, the best 800 runners in the county this season, finished 1-2 respectively to qualify, and also ran on the 4x800 team that finished second.