For the 45th time, The Gwinnett County Championships are set to go down… outside of Gwinnett County and during a pandemic! Over 20 public and private high schools in the county will meet at the Georgia International Horse Park to contest this historic event. Things have been everything but normal with social distancing, masks, lower numbers, and an infinite amount of other hoops to jump through, but we're here and ready to compete! Defending champions from last year are Brookwood for the boys and Parkview for the girls. MileSplit Georgia will be onsite shooting race videos and photos.
Boys' Individual: Up For Grabs?
Ben Butcher of Dacula
3 of the top 4 from last year's County Championships are now teammates at Georgia Tech leaving this year's campaign wide open. On paper, the individual favorite is 2019 runner up Ben Butcher of Dacula. Butcher also took 4th as a sophomore here, so he historically runs this course well. Thus far he's finished 2nd at the Wildcat Invitational (behind another favorite, Wesleyan's Mac Howie). Butcher puts himself in the mix wherever he races, so watch out for him at the front. Speaking of Howie, the Wesleyan senior has improved a lot from last year and has an early victory on his resume and a low 16's effort at AT&T. To prove the depth of this boys' field though, it must be noted that Howie was behind two other Gwinnettians in Ethan Nordman of Mill Creek and Andrew Todd of Parkview. Nordman and Todd basically tied at AT&T, both running 16:10 for the top 10 honors. Nordman is coming off a 9:44 PR in the 3200m before the shutdown while Todd barely finished outside the top 10 at County last year. Both must figure into the conversation for the title. Sebastian Rodriguez of Archer is coming off a 2020 track season which saw him go sub-4:30 and sub-9:45. He's got 2 top 10s to his credit thus far this season. Miguel Schlicht of Norcross defeated Todd at Bob Blastow, dropping a blistering 15:10 at the 3-mile affair. He finished in the top 10 at County last year, so you obviously can't ignore him as one of the surefire favorites this year. And last but certainly not least is Brookwood's Will Bray who took 5th last year and has been a top scorer for the Broncos since his sophomore year. He easily figures into this equation. Others to consider top 10 threats include Jacob Peters of Mill Creek, Caden Hall of Parkview, Seth Wheeler of Brookwood, Nathan Solomon of Shiloh, Yianni Pothoulakis of North Gwinnett, and Delfino Juarez of Norcross
Boys' Team: Five Alive Round 2?
Similarly to the 2019 campaign, the 2020 competition appears to be a 5 team race. Last year's contest came down to 1 single point between Brookwood and Parkview, and it's hard to imagine things will be way more clear cut this time around. The on-paper favorite right now though isn't either of these teams -- it's the Norcross Blue Devils. Norcross thumped Parkview by over 60 points at Bob Blastow and got all of their scorers in the top 30 (Schlicht, Juarez, Yonas Chimbanda, Elliott Januzelli, and Eric Van Ness), but there's a huge gap after their 5th. This could be Norcross's race to lose, but they must have all 5 runners on to get it done. Defending champions Brookwood secured Coach Dehnke's 9th career County Championship last year by a single point over Parkview. Leading the way for the Broncos are a trio of seniors Bray, Seth Wheeler, and Jackson Harper along with a freshman sensation in Kadin McAllister. Brookwood has only 1 race under their belt this year, a runner-up finish at the Northeast Georgia Championships while besting Mill Creek, Archer, and North Gwinnett in the process. Mill Creek will be in contention coming off a 4th place finish at AT&T. Nordman and Peters lead this charge and will be supported by Aidan Van Derhei but will need a 4th and 5th to match Norcross and Brookwood's scorers to contend. Last year's runner up Parkview is led by the aforementioned Andrew Todd but will need a little help. Caden Hall finished just outside the top 10 last year and Heyabel Tekle has gotten off to a solid start this year. They'll need big performances from their supporting cast. And then there's Archer who appears 1 runner away from being potentially the favorite. Rodriguez leads this crew and will be followed by Skylar Taylor, Miles Ferguson, and Steven McCartney. Wesleyan and North Gwinnett could also figure into the picture should any of these athletes falter.
Girls' Individual: A Smorgasbord of Young Talent
Brooke Browning of Hebron Christian
The coolest thing about this year's girl's race is that the majority of the contenders will return for next year. The reigning Gwinnett Daily Post's Runner of the Year Brooke Browning took 2nd overall, only finishing 10 seconds behind champion Sarah McCartney. She's won 2 races already this year and broke 5:20 in the 1600m on the track, putting her as the on-paper favorite for this year's individual title. Teammate Ellie Brewer is the only one to defeat Browning this year which was at their opener. Brewer has taken 2nd place in her other 2 competitions giving Hebron a strong 1-2 punch which could potentially be the first 2 punches thrown in the race results. The Parkview duo of Emma Geaney and Abi Debebe has gotten off to a hot start, boasting top 15 finishes in both of their races. Debebe is the #2 returner based off last year, and teammate Geaney has improved a ton from last season. Edith Kahiga of Mill Creek took 20th at AT&T and was 6th at County last year and should stick her nose up in the mix. Karsyn Rodney of Dacula has posted 2 top 6 finishes thus far and was 7th last year. Freshman Paige Sandidge of Archer has posted 2 top 10 finishes to open up her rookie season and could be a mainstay through her high school career among the county elites. Rounding out the list of favorites is Brookwood's Allie Wardle who took 4th at the Northeast Georgia Championships and has improved a lot from last year. Other considerations for the top 10 include Jaimie Chen and Haley Primm of Parkview, Claudia Gatti of Norcross, Emily Guy of Mill Creek, and Marianna Gazzara of North Gwinnett.
Girls' Team: A Tale of Two Teams
(photo by Gwinnett daily post)
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…" It's hard to imagine when Charles Dickens wrote these words in 1859 that it would have such… relevance… to life today. But that's why we read old literature anyway, right? Okay okay -- I'll avoid going off on an English Teacher Nerd Tangent. Dickens's words couldn't be truer for life today over 160 years later. With that said, 2 teams appear to have been able to 'drown out the noise' and put together championship-caliber squads to open up the season: Parkview and Mill Creek. Parkview has one of the better 1-2-3-4 punches in Georgia in Geaney, Debebe, Chen, and Primm. They've put together consecutive 3rd place finishes at their opening meets and will look to repeat as champions, attempting to defend their first title since 1997. They do have a missing piece though as their 5th runner has finished over 1:45 behind their 4th in each of those races. Enter Mill Creek, who has far more depth than the Panthers. Mill Creek has featured 2 different #1 runners in Emily Guy and Edith Kahiga, and they were able to put 6 runners in before Parkview's 5th at AT&T -- a critical fact which could be the difference at County. Parkview topped Mill Creek at AT&T, but you'd be a fool to assume the Lady Hawks don't have revenge in mind. Coach Michael Sexton, in addition to being an awesome horror novelist (a la the pen name William Sterling -- check out his work! #ShamelessPlug), has been a formidable coach and will absolutely have his ladies set to contend. Other teams vying for the top 4 positions include Brookwood, North Gwinnett, Archer, and Wesleyan.
The action kicks off at 8:00 am at the Georgia International Horse Park! See you (and your mask)