NORMAN, Okla.-- Every brunette needs a blonde best friend.
If you’re lucky, that blonde also happens to be your teammate and doubles partner.
Seniors Mia Lancaster and Whitney Ritchie are those best friends; the ones who not only attend the same college but who also play the same sport and spend probably too much time together. Since first meeting at a tennis tournament in 2008, the duo has been practically inseparable.
In high school, Lancaster and Ritchie won five national doubles titles along with the Oklahoma 4A state doubles title in 2008. It seemed only fitting that the two would attend the same college and play tennis together. However, that idea almost didn’t come to fruition. Though Ritchie committed to Oklahoma as a junior, Lancaster still wanted to look other places.
“When we first started the process, it wasn’t like ‘oh we’re definitely going to the same school,’ Lancaster said. “It just ended up all working out. I thought I wanted to go somewhere else and do my own thing but after looking at other schools and the fact that Whitney and my sister were here, I just knew I wanted to be here.”
Lancaster committed to OU the July before her senior year of high school. Having each other around for the past four years has made the friendship between her and Ritchie that much stronger.
“Our friendship in high school compared to now is so much different,” she said. “We’ve grown a lot together in college. We wouldn’t have gone through the same things together had we gone to different schools.”
Going into their freshmen year, the two knew there was a possibility that playing doubles together in college would not happen.
Fortunately for them, head coach David Mullins paired the two up in February of their freshmen year, just in time for conference play. They ended up with a 13-2 record and won the No. 2 doubles Big 12 position championship. But it would be the last time the pair would play together as Ritchie paired up with former Sooner Marie-Pier Huet in 2012 and current teammate Hermon Brhane in 2013.
Though Ritchie became an ITA Central Region Doubles Champion with Huet and an All-American with Brhane, Lancaster was always there to support her best friend.
“You have to do what’s best for the team,” Lancaster said. “I was really happy for her. I wish I was there with her, but at the same time, how it plays out is what’s supposed to happen.”
“My goal was to be an All-American,” Ritchie said. “Would it have been a dream to do it with Mia, absolutely, but the timing wasn’t right and it just played out the way it played out. It’s unfortunate it happened like that, but I’m still glad I got it.”
The fall of 2013 saw the return of their partnership. The pair won the ITA Central Region doubles title in October on their home court and traveled to New York for the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships. For the spring season, they’ve compiled a 14-4 record and lead the Big 12 with a 7-1 record at the No. 1 spot.
“It’s like the cherry on top,” Ritchie said. “Freshman year we got to play together which was unexpected. Then we got separated and now it’s all coming together how it’s supposed to be.”
Though Ritchie and Lancaster play as a team, they still have to play against each other occasionally. In singles at the ITA Regional in October, the round of 16 saw the pair battling it out to make it to the next round. Ritchie was the victor, but there weren’t hard feelings between the two.
“I think there was more competition in high school, “ Lancaster said. “As we’ve grown up, it’s not even a factor anymore. We’re just making each other better. It’s not personal or anything like that.”
Their friendship may have started on the tennis courts, but it definitely hasn’t stayed there. Though they spend most of their time at tennis or in class, they always find ways to hang out, whether it’s a Starbucks date after an awards banquet or attending a Miley Cyrus concert.
They’ll also be the first to tell you that they like to think of their friendship as being the same as the one between Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez.
“We always compare ourselves to them because I love Taylor and she loves Selena and they just happen to be best friends,” Ritchie said. “We like to think we’re as pretty and as cool as them.”
Their close friendship hasn’t gone unnoticed by others. Fellow teammates Whitney Wofford and Morgan Chumney both agree that Ritchie and Lancaster have a special bond.
“It’s unique,” Wofford said. “It’s a definite bond and you know they’re going to be friends forever. They understand each other. I’ve seen them get mad at each other like sisters but they’re still really close.”
“They’re both very different but the way they are together makes their friendship unique,” Chumney said. “They compliment each other well with their different personalities.”
The differences in their personalities are apparent even at first glance. Lancaster is much quieter and focused while Ritchie has the “wild child” persona following her around.
“She’s makes me do things not by the rules,” Lancaster said. “I follow the rulebook and try to keep Whit in line sometimes.”
“I’m more of the laid-back type,” Ritchie said. “Mia is more organized and does everything by the book.”
Just like anyone else, the girls still have times where they don’t exactly get along. Though they’ve improved from the high school days of not speaking for extended periods of time, the pair still has days when they need a break from each other.
“We’ve been in one big fight since we got to college,” Ritchie said. “It’s unlike high school where it was all the time over stupid things. We’ve matured in college and I think we appreciate each other a lot more and the friendship that we have.”
“Now it’s just bickering and then we’re over it,” Lancaster said.
Lancaster and Ritchie will soon graduate and leave their time on the court behind. Though they may never compete again as a doubles team after this season ends, they’ll have six years of memories to look back on. As best friends, they’ll have years and years ahead to make new memories.
“We’ll do our own things but we’ll still be really close,” Lancaster said. “I’ll still talk to her every day.”
“Regardless of where we are, this friendship is for life,” Ritchie added.