Melissa Rosselli had every reason to believe Thursday morning wouldn't be a shoe-in.
She had won a raffle at Rack Room Shoes and was going to get 86 seconds to grab as much footwear as she could carry (no bag or cart allowed) to the cashier's counter.
Whatever she hauled would be hers. No charge.
But Rosselli, 19, was nervous as she and her mother, Dawn, got to the store at 10 a.m.
Called a "shoe fanatic'' by mom, Rosselli was about to live the dream of every woman fond of slingbacks, boots, pumps, clogs. What a dream!
But could she pull it off?
And would she manage to grab just the shoes she wanted, in the right colors and, most importantly, in size 9?
Rack Room Shoes' promotion was timed to its 86th anniversary. The retailer has sponsored the contest for two years in one store in each of its U.S. markets. Rack Room has more than 300 stores in 24 states.
To prepare for Thursday, Rosselli, an Oldsmar resident and secretary at Pioneer Mortgage, cased the store a few days earlier.
And her father, Tony, helped her train, timing her with a stopwatch as she ran around the house grabbing strategically-placed Tupperware containers and lunch boxes.
Thursday morning, she was given two minutes to take another gander at the Rack Room displays.
Then came her moment of truth.
Official timekeeper Ken Helm, the store's regional manager, stood near the purses, poised to clock Rosselli on his Nokia cell phone.
"I'm excited but scared I'm going to drop the boxes everywhere,'' she said.
"Are you ready?'' asked Helm.
She indicated she was.
Rosselli dashed straight to the athletic shoe aisle and grabbed two pairs of sneakers, one in pink and black, the other in pink and silver.
"That a girl!'' yelled Dad.
She then beelined to the pumps, frantically pulling boxes of high heels.
"Twenty seconds left!'' said Helm.
"Oh God,'' Rosselli said. She had seven boxes, but had to cross two aisles to the cashier's stand. "I can't do it!''
"Come on, lift!'' Dad urged.
She bent down, picked up the boxes and ran to the register.
"Whew,'' she said. "I don't even know what I grabbed.''
She scored. Besides the sneakers, she had nabbed three pairs of pointy toe shoes, one pair of clogs and one pair of boots. And get this: all were in her size.
Any woman will tell you that in itself was a Christmas miracle.
Rosselli strolled out of the store smiling. She had $275.46 worth of shoes. "I got what I wanted,'' she said. "I'm not complaining.''
Eileen Schulte can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or firstname.lastname@example.org.