For the 44th time, The Gwinnett County Championships are set to go down... outside of Gwinnett County! Over 20 public and private high schools in the county will meet at the Georgia International Horse Park to contest this historic event. While certainly not an "end-all-be-all" race 7 weeks from the State Championships, this meet has served as a measuring stick for what is closing in on the halfway point of the season. Defending champions from last year are Brookwood for the boys and North Gwinnett for the girls.
Boys' Individual: Myles Collins's Coming Out Party?
Myles Collins and the rest of Archer's squad have raced at lower-key meets up to this point of the season, but Myles Collins has already broken 15:20 twice. The senior has only been truly challenged once so far this season - a duel vs. Graham Blanks that he won. Myles is coming off a strong track season and could be a step or two ahead of the rest of the competition. The former basketball player looks to win his first and only Gwinnett County Championship in a race that has been dominated by Chase Condra the past couple of years.
There are plenty of other individuals that could try and take away Collins's victory. One of them is rival Chris Cherono of Grayson who has pushed Collins to the brink multiple times in their career and owns a couple victories. Cherono boasts three top 4 finishes so far this year including an opening 'W' at the Hoya 2 Mile. Another threat is Parkview's Tristan Autry. Autry defeated Cherono in the State 3200m and Collins at the Wingfoot Mile to close out his junior Track campaign, so he's proven he can take them; however, he will need to be on his 'A' game as the odds are stacked against him given their history. Brian Pelland is fresh off a 4th place finish at Berry, so he could be able to stick his nose in there and threaten at least for top 3. Ben Butcher of Dacula, while finishing nearly a minute behind Collins at the Eagle Invite last weekend, should still be a top 3-4 threat in the field. The Schlicht brothers, Gabriel and Miguel, of Norcross can also be factors - especially Miguel who took Autry to the line last week in Carrollton. And of course, we cannot forget about the Bronco Duo of Will Bray and Luke McNeill. Luke McNeill took 4th overall at the State XC Championships last year, so he could rediscover the magic this Saturday. Will Bray made a huge jump last year as a sophomore and has only bagged more miles since; expect him to emerge and threaten for a top 5 spot.
Boys' Team: Five Alive?
The 2019 Gwinnett County XC Championship team battle seems to be a five team battle amongst Parkview, Norcross, Brookwood, Mill Creek, and Archer. The on-paper favorites for the boys based on recent results are the Parkview Panthers, fresh off their victory in Carrollton this past Saturday. Parkview was able to place 3 in the top 20 (Autry 9th, Andrew Todd 16th, and Caden Hall 20th) to top Norcross (2nd overall) and Brookwood (8th overall). That's all well and good, but Parkview can't just waltz into the Land of Horses and expect an easy victory. They laid an egg last year after a spirited runner-up finish to Brookwood in the 2018 Carrollton Orthopedic Invite, so they'll need to ensure history doesn't repeat itself. They have a strong 4, but they'll need a 5th to hold off challenges from the other contenders. Norcross only finished 18 points behind Parkview in a pretty competitive field in Carrollton but more importantly, they put 6 in front of Parkview's 5th in Carrollton (including a strong 27th place effort from Yonas Chimbanda), and this won't have as many runners nor the same depth of competition as Carrollton did; this could all work in the favor of the Blue Devils. There's no way that Brookwood doesn't bounce back from last week's 8th place effort this Saturday. The Brookwood/Parkview rivalry, largely lopsided in the Broncos' favor in recent memory, was reignited in Carrollton after Parkview's narrow loss to Brookwood in the season opening Hoya 2 Mile Invite. Look for them to seek revenge in Conyers. They'll need big days from Seth Wheeler, Kai Vigardt, and Jackson Harper. Mill Creek narrowly lost to Parkview and Brookwood at the opening Hoya 2 Mile Invitational but had a pretty strong effort at the Berry Clara Bowl Invitational as they took 2nd place. The Hawks have a nice combination of seniority and youth on their team, and speaking from personal experience, Coach Christie's squads 'get up' for County. They feature a strong multi-athlete in Ethan Nordman and an experienced senior in Paul Pollock who will look to assist Pelland. And then there's Archer. Per the article about Coach John McCartney in the Gwinnett Daily Post, Archer's season got off to a unique start due to some injury troubles in the summer, and as a result, have been outside the public eye to start this season. Even so, they've got the individual favorite in Collins as well as a formidable 2-5 led by McCartney's freshman son, Steven. They'll enter the meet believing they should be the favorites to win, and they could be right.
Girls' Individual: Sarah McCartney Tops the Charts
Sigh. I really wanted to make some Beatles references here, but I'll just let it be. It's all too much. McCartney ended her junior Track effort with two top 8 finishes at State and has opened this season with three straight victories - all of which have been sub-20:00. This Saturday could just be another day in the life of Sarah McCartney as she seeks her first career victory at County after a 3rd place effort last year. She's seemingly been running eight days a week to prepare for her senior season; we'll all just have to come together to see if she can get it done. I know, I know; I'm a loser. Reese Saddler is absolutely not a loser though. Saddler, who finished 4th last year at County, has finished in the top 10 every year since starting high school. She took 11th overall at Carrollton this past weekend which was a strong effort in a loaded field. Look for her to challenge McCartney. Madison Watts, teammate of last year's champion Chloe Hetherington, will look to keep the individual honors at Mountain View. Last year's County runner-up has already raced four times and claimed a top 5 finish in all of them. She will obviously factor into the individual race. Sophomore Brooke Browning of Hebron has broken 20:00 in all 3 of her races this year and could shake things up as she races her upperclassmen opponents.
Girls' Team: Four will Factor
The team championship race looks to be among Brookwood, Parkview, Mill Creek, and North Gwinnett. Led by the aforementioned Reese Saddler and a nice mixture of newcomers and returning talent, The Lady Broncos took 5th overall and were the second 7A squad at last week's Carrollton Orthopedic Invite. Carter's Crew should always be taken seriously, and they've got the talent and the pedigree thus far to be considered the favorites. The trio of Sophia Rodriguez, Emily Thisdale, and Emma Ingalls finished together last week and could pack a punch nobody else can handle. The Lady Panthers of Parkview, 8th overall in the same race this past Saturday, should also be taken seriously. This heavily improved squad, similar to Brookwood, boasts lots of upperclassmen talent and has featured two freshmen in the top five in Abi Debebe (who was their #1 last week) and Haley Primm. Individual State qualifier Claire Mills along with experienced teammates Elise Musser and Emma Geaney will try to help win the team's first County title since 1996. The Lady Hawks of Mill Creek don't have an individual who should factor into the individual title, but they could have the strongest depth at #5 which we all know is critical in a team's success. They took 4th overall at Berry a couple weeks ago and packed Andrea Montes, Isabelle Hahn, and Jessica Hernandez all in the top 20. They could be dangerous if they repeat this. And then there is the defending County Champion in North Gwinnett. Roland's squad has gotten off to a bit of a slow start this year, but this team is well coached and has historically had lots of talent. The trio of Erica Hambacker, Makenna Kulzer, and Jewel Lewis all went 21:00 or faster at the North GA Championships a couple weeks back, so we can't ignore this team either.
See everyone Saturday at the Horse Park!
8:30 a.m. Varsity Girls (up to 10 Entries) Top 25 Medals
9:00 a.m. Varsity Boys (up to 10 Entries) Top 25 Medals
9:30 a.m. Championship J.V. Girls any grade (up to 15 entries) Top 25 Medals
10:00 a.m. Championship J.V. Boys any grade (up to 15 entries) Top 25 Medals
10:30 a.m.2 Mile Middle School Boys & Girls Combined (unlimited entries) Top 15 Medals
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