The 2021 Boys Varsity Race from Gwinnett
2022 Gwinnett County Championships Meet Preview
For the 47th time, The Gwinnett County Championships are set to go down... once again 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. Defending champions from last year are Mill Creek for the boys and North Gwinnett for the girls.
Boys' Individual: Is this the Luke Kalarickal Show?
While Mill Creek lost a ton of talent from last season, one stud remained - and that's Luke Kalarickal. The senior had a strong track season, going sub 4:25 and sub 9:25, and has opened up his XC campaign strongly with a 16:00 at the Providence Invitational in Charlotte, NC and then 15:47, good enough for 5th place at AT&T Starr's Mill. Nobody else in the field has touched this yet, and this makes sense as 11 of the top 13 boys from last year's Gwinnett County Championships graduated. The automatic All-County selections will look quite different this year, and odds are, Kalarickal is at the top. He's the heaviest favorite in recent memory coming into County. The top returner from last year's meet is Archer's Steven McCartney. McCartney opened his season last week with a 2nd place finish at the Patriot Invite but is coming off a long layoff. Will he still be a little too rusty to contend? Conventional wisdom says yes, but we're still talking about a 4:21/9:30 kid in the Spring. He's obviously talented, and as a senior, he's going to want to go off on a high note. Even if he doesn't contend, I expect him to still stick his nose up there. While Brookwood has multiple top 10 threats in this thing, Austin Dezwart seems to be the cream rising to the top. Dezwart was able to break away from the Bronco pack down at Jekyll Island to run 16:29 which is the second fastest time in the County this year. In terms of his own team, we can't discount sophomore Alexander Thompson, Charlie Thomas, Don Pressley, Marshall Bray, Truitt Fowler, and Carter Dehnke. Yeah, that's a mouthful, and while there can only be one winner, this season so far seems to indicate a lot of Broncos in the top 10. The Collins Hill duo of senior Marc Petrucci and freshman (!) Jameson Pifer both impressed at AT&T Starr's Mill. They both enter as the #3 and #4 on paper individuals, and while they've run a quicker course than Brookwood, I assume they'll still be in contention. Others we need to take note of include Parkview's Kadin McAllister and David Garcia, Mill Creek's Gavin Mathieu and Dylan Lucas, and Dacula's Chance Jones.
Boys' Team: Is it Brookwood's turn to climb back up the mountain?
Last year's campaign saw Mill Creek win in dominant fashion which surprised... nobody... since they were undefeated all season when full strength against Georgia competition. This year should be a little more closely contested, but on paper, this is Brookwood's year to regain a spot they've held many times in the past: County Champions. The aforementioned talent of Dezwart, Thompson, Thomas, Pressley, Bray, Fowler, and Dehnke could just be too much for the other contenders to overcome. A few other teams have anywhere from 1 to 3 guys that can contend with this Brookwood pack, but can they find enough? Looking at their first 2 races (admittedly against weaker competition than others in this field), these guys packed it up really well. If this pack finishes somewhere between like 7th and 13th place? Forget about it. Mill Creek has actually run much better than projected this year, and while on paper they're off the pace, they do have their ace up their sleeve in Luke Kalarickal. That's almost a guaranteed "1" in the scoresheets, so if Brookwood's top runner is only, say, 6th, and their pack gets broken up, can Mill Creek do enough damage to run off the strength of their stud? Is it likely? No... but that's why we race! They'll need Dylan Lucas, Gavin Mathieu, Tanner Tucker, and Caiden Hall for a lot of help. Another team that has far exceeded projections is Parkview. Getting a transfer like Kadin McAllister certainly helps, but between runners who have never run XC before and runners who have vastly improved from last year, Parkview finds themselves 3rd on paper entering this competition with some high upside. McAllister features as a strong top 5 threat, and teammate David Garcia will try to join him in the top 10. Where it gets interesting is the rest. Kaleb Tesfaye, Jack Holcomb, and Solomon Mussie will look to assist. Other teams that could threaten include Dacula, North Gwinnett, Collins Hill, Archer, and Buford.
Girls' Individual: Seniors could Reign Supreme
Lots of ladies from last year's All-County Team graduated, and the vast majority of the top prospects for 2022 are seniors. Two of the top seeds are Brookwood's Macy Felton and Allie Wardle. These ladies have run in tandem thus far this season and could very easily go 1-2 to give Brookwood a really strong start in the team standings. Felton especially made some huge gains in the Spring and has continued that jump into the Fall. Watch for these two ladies to be at the forefront in this contest. Emily Cragin of Archer was 5th last year, and while she has had some injury concerns recently, she did go top 25 at the very deep AT&T Starr's Mill Invite to open her season strongly. With this being her final 'go' at County, watch for her to push near the front. There's been a bit of a 'changing of the guard' as longtime Norcross stud Kyra Andrews has been supplanted recently by the one non-senior top 5 threat, and that's Emily Rodriguez who has paced the Blue Devils thus far this season. Parkview's Haley Primm has been a mainstay at the upper echelon of Gwinnett County since her sophomore year, and she should be someone to pay close attention to as well. North Gwinnett's Tori Meyer is another familiar name, and she's finished 1st and 3rd in her opening 2 races thus far this season and should pace the Bulldogs. Peachtree Ridge's Alitza Dennard has quietly progressed towards Gwinnett's elite and broke 20:00 twice last year; look for her to see how far up in the top 10 she can finish at County. Others to keep in mind include the Mill Creek 1-2 punch of Jewel Wells and Evelyn Schlitz, Parkview's Citlali Diaz, and Brookwood's Jillian Rovie.
Girls' Team: Four Teams = Party at Gwinnett County Championships?
On paper anyway, there is no obvious separation among the top 4 team contenders at Gwinnett County this year. Wesleyan would be in here, too, but they're opting to race elsewhere this weekend. While each of these 4 teams have a shot at winning, they've also all got some issues they'll need to mitigate to win the Title. Norcross, by PR, appears to be the slight favorite. They did lose to Brookwood earlier this season, but they've had a solid start to their season. Emily Rodriguez has seemingly taken over Kyra Andrews as the top runner, but they can really help their team out by both being in the top 5-10 on Saturday. They'll need help from the supporting cast including Kylie Dommert and Alexa Foster. The issue for Norcross has been the ever-important 5th runner. If Norcross can get their 5th girl in earlier than projected, they may be too much to handle. Brookwood has a similar team buildup with a really strong top 2 in Macy Felton and Allie Wardle. These 2 are projected to be the first 2 across the line in general, but then after that, it's going to be interesting. Jillian Rovie made up some significant ground down at Jekyll Island, but their 4-5 will need to be much closer than they've been this season to help Brookwood win another County Title. Parkview's disappointing 4th place finish last year was avenged at State, but they'll be looking to try and take "3 out of 4" on Saturday on the shoulders of seasoned veteran Haley Primm. Citlali Diaz, Aubrey Bailey, Jordan Seymour, and Zhari Maxineau have given Parkview the smallest 1-5 gap in the field which is an advantage... the disadvantage is they appear a little weaker at 2-4 than other contenders Brookwood and Norcross. And then there's defending champion North Gwinnett who hasn't spent much time on the 'main stage' this year. Tori Meyer has separated herself from her teammates, so for North to repeat, they'll need the supporting cast of Kate Lewis, Maddy Tilson, Abby Dasher, Aurora Streleckis, Bella Meyer, and Avery Sams to step up big. North has the best 6-7 in the field, so if anyone should falter among these 4 teams, North is the most likely team to pick up the pieces and steal a victory. Mill Creek and Peachtree Ridge feature as potential trophy contenders should any of the others falter, but my bet is that those 4 contenders finish in the top 4 in some order.The action kicks off at 8:00am at the Georgia International Horse Park!