Marisa Messana was a wide-eyed middle schooler when American Heritage last ruled the state girls golf championships, holding down the final roster spot as the Patriots completed a run of three consecutive titles from 2007 to 09.
Forgive her if she thought it was easy.
I thought I was going to have six rings on my fingers, Messana said, holding out both hands where the rings might have gone.
Three years of frustration taught her otherwise, as it did for two teammates who joined the squad as freshmen. On Wednesday, though, the senior trio finally could share in triumph.
The Patriots returned to the top of the podium in style, running off with the Class 2A title by 47 strokes at Mission Inn in Howey-in-the-Hills to evoke images of Heritages last dominant run.
Finally! fellow senior Claudia Di Antonio said. Weve been working on this for so long.
Said Messana: The fact that we didnt quite get there the last three years was really frustrating, but its pretty cool to have it this year.
The frustration belonged to the Heritage boys this year, watching their bid for back-to-back crowns fall painfully short in finishing two shots behind new champion Ponte Vedra.
The Patriots made up an eight-shot deficit by the turn, but couldnt match some timely Ponte Vedra birdies down the final stretch.
Its bittersweet day for the boys, coach Brandt Moser said, but its a real exciting day for the girls.
The girls, who led by 23 after the opening round, left no doubt by placing four players among the top 10 individuals. Their winning margin was the largest by anyone in the state tournament since 2007, when Kyle Roig and Shelby Coyle led the Patriots to a 52-shot romp over Bradenton St. Stephens.
About the only item left unfulfilled was the individual title, where De Antonios 75 left her two shots behind Ponte Vedras Nicolette Donovan. A double bogey at No. 17 proved to be the difference, leaving her at 2-over-par 146.
Im a little upset at that, she said, but it happens.
Messana and Andreina Merchan were another stroke back for coach Linda Sibios squad, with Jamie Freedman (148) tied for eighth.
The boys played to a compelling finish, but the Patriots couldnt coax home a key birdie over the final two holes. Nor did they have a counter for Ponte Vedras Taylor Funk son of Champions Tour pro Fred Funk who won the individual crown at 3-under 141.
We gave them as good a run as we could have given them, said Jorge Garcia, whose 72 led the Heritage charge.
Kristian Caparros took top honors among the Patriots, placing third in the individual competition at 3-over 147. Garcia was another shot back in fourth.
Archbishop McCarthy finished fifth in the boys competition and seventh among the girls, marking a solid return to states and a bright outlook for next year.
I think its going to help out a lot going forward, said coach Carl Phillips, who loses just one senior from his boys squad and two on the girls side.
Among individual competitors, Cardinal Gibbons Sam Madson used a 74 Wednesday to tie for seventh among the boys. On the girls side, Pine Crests Samantha Haubenstock rose to 10th after a 74.