Preview: 2018 Gwinnett County Championships:
For the 43rd time, The Gwinnett County Championships are set to go down - this time in a (recently anyway) familiar venue - the Georgia International Horse Park! While this venue is ironically not in Gwinnett County, it has served as the home of the County championships for the last several years and has produced some awesome racing and also served as a measuring stick for what is closing in on the halfway point of the season. Defending champions from last year are Mill Creek for the boys and North Gwinnett for the girls. MileSplit GA will be onsite shooting race footage.
Boys' Individual: Can Anybody Take Down Chase Condra?
In the individual race, it appears to be Chase Condra's title to lose. The defending County champion has been on an absolute tear this season, easily downing the competition at both Spikes and Spurs and Berry - the latter by over 30 seconds. The Peachtree Ridge Lion has seemingly awakened following a (by his standards) subpar track season. A beastly Peachtree Road Race along with a big summer of running have primed Condra for a thrilling senior season. Can he continue on his destructive path?
Myles Collins (Archer) and Chris Cherono (Grayson) look to be among the favorites to challenge for the title. The two traded blows at Berry with Cherono outlasting Collins. I can't imagine these two will allow Condra to gap them like he did to them at Berry; will these two "give chase to Chase"?
Will Bray of Brookwood has come from the trenches and had a great start to his sophomore campaign with three top 10 finishes to his credit. He's been the number 1 Bronco thus far but hasn't yet had the opportunity to race any of the above 3. Can he pull off something special?
The trio of Tristan Autry, Luke McNeil, and Brian Pelland have had slow starts to their 2018 campaigns but cannot be forgotten about. All three of these guys ran low 9:40s or better in the 3200m this past track season with Autry and McNeil scoring at the State championships. It'd be ill-advised for anyone to forget about these three athletes entering Saturday.
The final individual we can't forget about is Hebron's Brandon Potra. While it can be easy for the "big boys" to forget about the smaller classifications at times, Potra actually defeated Will Bray head-to-head at Battle of Atlanta and holds PRs of 4:28 (1600) and 16:23 to his name. It's been since 1997 that the boys' individual title has been won by somebody not from the state's largest class. Could we see history on Saturday?
Boys' Team: Showdown for the Ages?
In its history, the County championship has been won 19 times by Parkview and 15 times by Brookwood - easily the two most in County history. The 2018 edition appears to be a showdown of two storied programs who hit rougher times recently, dating back to last year's State championship. This year, both programs appear to be back where they believe they belong. The two just met last week with Brookwood defeating Parkview as the teams took the top 2 spots at Carrollton Orthopedic. Both teams have runners capable of running up front, and both feature enough depth to where the ever-so-critical 5th man can be the difference maker. The edge here of course goes to Brookwood who put 4 in front of Parkview's 3 last week and won by 22 points. Can the Panthers close the gap to the Broncos in their second showdown of the season? Other teams to consider include Norcross who has showed remarkable improvement from last year's campaign, Grayson who has a strong top 3 but will need to find a 4-5 to contend, and Mill Creek who should be at/close to full strength by Saturday.
Girls' Individual: Hetherington for the W?
The favorite here is easily Chloe Hetherington of Mountain View. The Lady Bear has won twice already this season and took 2nd at Berry. She has rapidly improved from last year and has catapulted herself into the upper echelon of Georgia's best and looks to prove she's the class of the field on Saturday. If she's on, she could be considered as heavy a favorite as Condra is on the guys' side.
Reese Sadler has had a strong start to her season as she boasts three top 10 finishes to her name early on in 2018. The 5:20 miler has shown a good combination of speed and strength in her career; can she challenge Hetherington for the title?
Sarah McCartney of Archer has started her 2018 season with a pair of third place finishes along with a top 10 finish at Berry. While she may be a few steps behind Hetherington when they're both at their best, McCartney could prove to be a factor if Hetherington or Sadler is off their game a little bit.
The North Gwinnett Lady Bulldogs duo of Makenna Kulzer and Caroline Ursprung could pose as significant threats as both have finished in the top 10 at County in prior years. Ursprung is a sub-5:20 miler with obvious strength at the 5K, and Kulzer has opened her season with two top 10 finishes. Either of these two ladies could do some damage if given the opportunity.
Girls' Team: Can anybody tame the Lady Broncos?
The Lady Broncos of Brookwood appear to be the early favorites here. They're currently the only Gwinnett ladies team ranked in the top 10 in class 7A, but they've also had a strong start to their season. Led by Saddler and Hannah Gatland, Brookwood has needed to fill the gaps left by graduation, but they've done a good job of that. They've started their season with a pair of third place finishes along with a 6th place finish at last week's Carrollton course in spite of being a little shorthanded. If they're back to full strength Saturday, they'll be tough to contend with.
North Gwinnett, winner of last year's edition of the Gwinnett County Championships, will look to defend their second County title in school history. The winners of the early season North Georgia Championships (narrowly over Archer), the Lady Bulldogs have had a quiet start to their season due to attending less publicized races, but perhaps that was part of the plan. They've potentially flown under the radar up to this point and could look to disrupt some momentum the Lady Broncos hope to continue on Saturday.
Aforementioned Archer's Lady Tigers are also a team that should be considered. Led by a fun duo of Coach McCartney and Athlete McCartney, Archer was the top Gwinnett team at Berry with an 8th place finish and also won the Kosh Klassic on one of the more challenging courses in Georgia. Similar to North Gwinnett, these ladies have gone largely unnoticed due to a couple smaller meets but could vault themselves into the public eye by challenging for the team title this weekend.
Mill Creek and Norcross are a couple other teams to monitor as Mill Creek has had a slow start to their season but has history on their side while Norcross is now coached by former Lady Blue Devil and Division II Nationals qualifier Katherine Yost. Either team could make some noise at the horse park, especially if one or more of the above teams falter.
8:30 a.m. Varsity Girls
9:00 a.m. Varsity Boys
9:30 a.m. Championship J.V. Girls any grade
10:00 a.m. Championship J.V. Boys any grade
10:30 a.m.2 Mile Middle School Boys & Girls Combined
11:00 a.m. Open J.V. Girls (Unlimited entries) Top 15 Medals
11:30 a.m. Open J.V. Boys (Unlimited entries) Top 15 Medals