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Brookwood boys aim for fifth straight county title

Last year's Gwinnett County boys track and field championship came down to the final race before Brookwood was able to edge away with a three and a half point lead.

While the Broncos won the last event of the day to claim their fourth straight title and eighth county championship in 10 years, it was Brookwood's finishes in third through eighth place that proved to be the difference.

Which is why Brookwood coach Bill Shields is stressing the importance of all of his athletes placing in the top eight at this year's county track meet.

"That's what we tell everyone," Shields said. "We know we can't win every event, but second, third, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth are going to be just as big for us.

"I tell them just because you don't win or finish second don't think that you are not helping the team because you are."

The county track and field meet begins Saturday at Mill Creek High School with the field events starting at 9 a.m. The meet concludes on Monday with the running finals at 4 p.m.

Brookwood has already won three tournaments this season - Eagle Icebreaker, Disney Showcase and Brookwood Relays - so the Broncos are a favorite to win county again, but will face tough competition.

The Broncos edged Parkview last year for the title and this season teams like Mill Creek, Collins Hill, Peachtree Ridge, Shiloh and Norcross have been impressive.

"This is an early season meet and you don't know who's going to do what," Collins Hill coach Andrew Hudson said.

In the boys hurdle races, defending county champion Sam Henley is back. The Brookwood senior won the 110 and 300 hurdle races last season, but will be challenged by Greater Atlanta Christian's Hunter Treadway, who finished second to Henley last year and was second at the AA state meet.

Defending pole vault state champion Cameron Cheek set a new county meet record of 15 feet, nine inches at last year's meet and this season the Mill Creek senior has already cleared 15-6, which is tops in the state.

Brookwood's Terrance Davis and South Gwinnett's Larry Cooper also have posted two of the top marks in Georgia this year. Davis, last year's high jump state champion, has already cleared 6-8 this spring, while Cooper has notched 48-4 in the triple jump.

South Gwinnett's Miles Ottinot is the only other defending county champion on the boys side, winning the county's 400 title. Ottinot set a county meet record last year with a time of 48.40.

GAC's Justin Schneider, last year's AA state champion in the 800, and Parkview's Marcelis Lynch, last season's AAAAA state champion in the 800, will battle it out for this year's county title.

All-American cross country runner Girma Mecheso is the favorite to win the 3,200 title for Berkmar and Collins Hill's Eric Gill, who was second at state in the discus, is a favorite as a thrower.

While there should be plenty of new county champions in the boys competition, it will be a lot of the same faces in the girls events and in the team competition.

Of the 14 individual events, nine county champions return. Collins Hill has won the last five team titles and the Eagles are favored to win their sixth county championship.

"That's our goal for sure on the girls side," Hudson said. "We feel pretty good about our team even though they have not been at full strength."

The Eagles have already won three meets - The Bartow Jenkins, Eagle Icebreaker and Georgia Challenge - this season.

Collins Hill's Nicole Okolo (triple jump, long jump and 100 hurdles), Dacula's Eve Machovec (shot put and discus), Meadowcreek's Brittany Hall (400 and 800), Parkview's Kristi Vester (300 hurdles) and Brookwood's Roxanne De Marco (3,200) all return to defend their titles.

Norcross' Danielle Davenport, last year's 400 state runner-up, returns as well.

Erica Penk, last year's AAAAA state champion, is favored to win the pole vault. The Dacula senior has already cleared 11-6 this year, which is tops in the state and matches the county meet record set by GAC's Annalise Peters last year. Okolo also holds Georgia's top mark in triple jump (39-7) and 100 hurdles (14.32), while Hall holds the top time in the 800 (2:13.75) and Machovec has the state's top throw in the discus (140-9).

Collins Hill's Jackie Drouin set last year's county meet record in the 1,600 with a time of 4:59.24, but is not expected to run in this year's race. Hall set the 400 meet record of 56.05 last season.