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Green Devil to face familiar foe

Between St. Petersburg's Kerry Allen and Oveido's Jenny Barringer, losing is a once-a-year proposition.

Usually when they run against each other.

Saturday, a budding rivalry is renewed when the two battle for the Class 4A state title in Tampa.

Barringer is one of the most high-profile runners in the state and, arguably, the best. The last time a major meet was held at the Ed Radice Sports Complex, site of Saturday's meet, she lit up the field with a time of 17 minutes, 23 seconds for the 3.1-mile course, at the time the fastest in the country.

For Allen, who ran in the same race, it was the only time she failed to cross the finish line first.

But Barringer knows how that feels. Last spring, she suffered her only loss of the track season in the 3,200 meter final at state, finishing second.

To Allen, of course.

As a result, the Green Devil sophomore still is given an outside shot to unseat Barringer at state, even if the Oveido junior has better credentials.

"I think I have a chance," said Allen, who has yet to receive the state acclaim Barringer has.

That would all change with a victory Saturday.

While Barringer has run faster times this season, Allen has yet to run her breakout race.

She saw her best competition at the meet early last month and rarely has been tested since. In all but two of her races this year, her winning margin has eclipsed one minute, a dominant stat considering it includes a race with Indian Rocks Christian's Melissa Kotchman, a tough conference field and a strong district.

Allen has just begun tapering, adding speed work this week while lightening her mileage load. Instead of running 7-10 miles a week, she is down to 4-5, adding shorter, quicker runs to keep her legs fresh.

She has yet to run her best race, but as she showed against Kotchman in the season opener, when pushed, she can do great things.

Allen said she doesn't know how she will run Saturday's race.

"I'm still developing a strategy," she said.

All season, she has gone to the front and stayed there. She might try and do the same with Barringer or not.

"I really don't know yet," she said.

After her victory, Barringer told a local newspaper that beating Allen was a big deal in light of her loss in the track final. Barringer said she needed to "tell her where she belongs."

But if you're looking for fire where there's smoke, don't.

"She called and apologized for saying that," Allen said.

As a result, the two consider themselves competitive friends. But like history has shown, something always has to give when they run in the same race.

Saturday, Allen hopes it's Barringer's perfect season.