Drouin, Barbi set to clash this weekend

It took all season, but the top two state title contenders in Class AAAAA girls cross country will finally go head-to-head on Saturday at the Region 7-AAAAA Championships.

The meet at Gainesville College features three-time defending state champion and top-ranked Collins Hill vs. AAAAA's second-ranked team, South Forsyth.

The schools haven't met this season, but they will this weekend as the Eagles put their five-year region winning streak on the line against the War Eagles, who haven't lost to a Georgia team this season.

That intriguing matchup in the 7-AAAAA girls meet makes it the most interesting of a handful of AAAAA region meets involving Gwinnett teams on Saturday - Region 8-AAAAA is at the River Green Complex in Duluth and 8-AAAA is at the International Horse Park in Conyers.

"It's one of the most anticipated matchups of the season on the girls side with us and South Forsyth," Collins Hill coach Andrew Hudson said. "They have not lost to a Georgia team yet but have not run against us."

Adding to the interest in the 7-AAAAA girls competition is the head-to-head duel between Jackie Drouin, the two-time defending state champion in AAAAA, and South Forsyth's Jennifer Barbi, considered her major competition at state and region.

"South Forsyth has Barbi and it should be a good race," Drouin said. "We haven't raced South Forsyth this year so we're looking forward to it."

Peachtree Ridge, ranked fourth in AAAAA, also is considered one of the strong girls teams in 7-AAAAA along with North Gwinnett.

On the boys side, the 7-AAAAA meet includes ranked teams Collins Hill (fifth), South Forsyth (sixth), Peachtree Ridge (seventh), North Gwinnett (eighth) and Mill Creek (10th). Mill Creek's Colin Conroy, North's Josh Albey and Collins Hill's Bryan Wilson are the top contenders in the individual race.

The 8-AAAAA boys meet features strong teams in defending state champion Parkview and Brookwood, while the individual region race likely won't be as exciting with Berkmar's Girma Mecheso the heavy favorite.

Grayson, Brookwood and Parkview are considered the top girls teams in 8-AAAAA, while the top individuals are the Rams' Abby Self, Mandy Tennyson and Meredith White, the Broncos' Carly Egan and the Panthers' Lindsey Ebert.

Dacula's boys and girls teams will be on the road on Saturday for the 8-AAAA meet in Conyers. The Falcon boys are ranked second in AAAA.