Collins Hill boys stave off challengers to claim 7-AAAAA championship

HOSCHTON - Chris Douglas and the Peachtree Ridge sprinters made a statement early.

The Lions won Monday's first three races in three Region 7-AAAAA meet-record times, including an all-time county record in the 400-meter relay. It was clear they were going to make a charge at Collins Hill's lead in the team standings. And so was Norcross.

But their charges weren't enough.

The Collins Hill boys won the 7-AAAAA title with 129 points, holding off nice days from both runner-up Norcross (103 points) and Peachtree Ridge (102 points). Mill Creek was fourth at 93.

After last Friday's field events, Collins Hill had a 21-point lead on Norcross and a 38-point edge over Peachtree Ridge. The gap was cut to as little as 10 points at one point on Monday, but the Eagles regained control and sealed the title with a first- and third-place finish in the 3,200.

Rob Manning won the 3,200 for Collins Hill, which also got a region title from Tony Burt in the 800. The team region title was the program's fourth, joining championships in 2001, 2002 and 2005. Collins Hill was second to Norcross last year.

"We haven't had a feeling like this. I don't know if it's ever felt this good (to win region)," Collins Hill co-head coach Andrew Hudson said. "To see where this team came from. It was such a rag-tag group of guys at the beginning of the season and it was a matter of fitting the pieces together. The last two or three weeks have been incredible. You can see them coming together."

Norcross had a strong day overall, led by a phenomenal effort from Kendall Parks. Parks swept the hurdles events, with a time of 15.01 seconds in the 110 and a 39.21 in the 300 hurdles.

Peachtree Ridge broke the county record in the 400 relay to start the running finals, finishing in 41.82 seconds. The foursome bettered the old Gwinnett mark set by Shiloh in 2006 at 42.04. Runner-up Norcross (42.11) also broke the previous meet record in the event.

The Lions then went 1-2 in the 400, an event won by Jonathan Franklin. Franklin was first in a meet-record time of 48.81 and teammate Justin Holloman took second.

Douglas followed with a victory in the 100 with a time of 10.89, although his time of 10.76 seconds in preliminaries will stand as the new meet record. The Lion sprinter also added a second-place finish in the 200, which was won by North Gwinnett's Kevin Starks at 22.32.

Peachtree Ridge also won the meet's final race, taking first in the 1,600 relay in a meet-record time of 3:19.92, which also was just off the all-time county record of 3:19.19.

Burt gave Collins Hill its first win on Monday in the 800 with a time of 1:56.74. Peachtree Ridge's Bryen Pyles edged Yaqub Ismail of Mill Creek in that race despite tumbling forward at the finish line. Both runners ran 1:57.48 and it took a long review before Pyles was named the second-place finisher and more importantly state qualifier.

Manning locked the crown up for Collins Hill with a victory in the 3,200 at 9:55.11. Mill Creek's Colin Conroy took second at 9:58.02 and Collins Hill's Phillip O'Brian was third.

The Eagles also got a runner-up finish from Steve Cash, as the runners finished up what the field performers started last weekend.

It took quite an effort from Collins Hill, particularly with the strong pursuit of its challengers.

"(Norcross and Peachtree Ridge) were loaded for bear," Hudson said. "Both of them were all over the finals. It seemed like everywhere we looked there were two Norcross and two Peachtree Ridge runners on either side of us."