Ridgewood's Joy Taylor and Countryside's Cindy Rosals may not notice anyone else during Saturday's 500-yard freestyle race in Class 2A.
Last week at Clearwater's Long Center, they swam the closest race of the District 5 meet with the 5-foot-9 Rosals touching just ahead of the 4-11 Taylor.
"I think she has a little more strength and the height, too," said Taylor, whose 5-minute, 8.27-second time was just off Rosal's 5:08.08.
Members of the Clearwater Aquatics Team, the not-so-bitter district rivals hugged afterward. Both feel the state meet could result in a similar finish. Rosals is seeded sixth and Taylor seventh.
"We don't care who wins," said Taylor, the Sunshine Athletic Conference champion in the 500 free. "We just want to go 1-2. It just feels really good to be that close."
"We're always racing each other," Rosals said, alluding to club practices. "It doesn't make any difference (on beating or coming in second to Taylor) because we are friends. If she gets first and I get second, it would be the same thing."
Taylor, however, is not the county's best bet for a girls state title. Gulf's Jessica Lampkin and Land O'Lakes' Margie Chamberlain are district champions. Lampkin won two events, swimming the 50 free in 25.25 seconds and the 100 backstroke in 1:02.97. Chamberlain won the 100 butterfly in 58.18.
A junior transfer from Delaware, Lampkin has competed at state twice in the 100 back and will swim the 50 free for the first time.
Noting that Delaware relies on times during the season, usually 20 dual meets, and does not schedule district meets, Lampkin feels it is more difficult to qualify in Florida.
"It means more here, because there's more competition," said Lampkin, adding that the SAC and district meets helped prepare her for state.
After Lampkin, Chamberlain and Taylor begin competing in Saturday's preliminaries, which begin at 9 a.m., the county will be represented by four divers in the 2 p.m. competition: Gulf's Michelle Mendonca and Taylor Mountain, Ridgewood's Sarah Penokie and Land O'Lakes' Kaci Ressler, the SAC champion.
Mendonca placed third at districts while the others received at-large bids.
Gulf diving coach Jerry Mancuso said that Mountain "was a little bit of a surprise.
"She was happy to get into the top 6," Mancuso said of the sophomore in her first year as a diver. "For her to qualify for states is great."
WHERE: Hall of Fame Aquatic Center, 501 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.
WHEN: Class A Friday, Class 2A Saturday.
TEAMS: Class A _ Pasco, Wesley Chapel; Class 2A _ Gulf, Hudson, Land O'Lakes, Mitchell, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Zephyrhills.
STATE QUALIFIERS: Gulf _ Jessica Lampkin, India Surlis, Kimmi Murphy, Emily Vlahakis, Michelle Mendonca, Taylor Mountain, Jason Dunn; Hudson _ Joe Hroma, Craig Bialkoski, Greg Montmarquet, Robert Bussy; Land O'Lakes _ Margie Chamberlain, Sarah Goolsby, Sarah Seidle, Kaci Ressler, Heather Anderson, Craig Hilgenberg, Chris Obara, Adam Yanchunis, Travis Moore, Trevor Martin, Ben Schultz; Mitchell _ Gregg Strange; Pasco _ Kim Borregard, Aly Coscia, Christine Davis, Grace Sinclair, Joleen Peter, Amanda Brock, Brett Clark, Orey Clark, Ross Coscia, Jason Epperson, Davy Johnson, Mark Hudson, Colt Pennington; Ridgewood _ Joy Taylor, Sarah Penokie, Mike Blum, Dan McCarthy, Brooks McNichols, Mike Mansfield, Nick DiIorio, David Morea; River Ridge _ Tara Jacobs, Stephanie Green, Brandy Mickey, Christine MacAvoy, Ellen Boczarski, Matt Sutton; Wesley Chapel _ Lindsey Walker, Liz Newkirk, Shelby Oliver, Misty Webster, Tyler Lydon, Anthony Vargas; Zephyrhills _ Adam Heisner, Kristen Donahue, Danielle Keeling, Renee Yonkoff, Carissa Foster, Kaitlin Kennedy.
_ Compiled by Steve Lee.