Eagle sweep
Collins Hill, Wesleyan boys claim state crowns

CARROLLTON - One Gwinnett County dynasty was extended while another came to an end at the state boys cross country meet Saturday at Carrollton High School.

But while Parkview's three-year reign as Class AAAAA champs ended, Collins Hill made sure the title remained in the county.

Four Eagle runners placed in the top 30 - led by Phillip O'Brien's fifth-place finish - to give Collins Hill its first state title in seven years.

The win allowed the Eagles to join Wesleyan among county teams taking a championship as the Wolves claimed their third straight Class AA title.

Collins Hill's title also made it eight straight Class AAAAA championships for Gwinnett teams since the classification was created in 2000 - a run the Eagles started three years before Andrew Hudson became head coach.

And while it was something he didn't necessarily expect, Hudson said he thought it was something his team was capable of if it ran to maximum potential.

"We did something we haven't done since 2003," Hudson said. "We had five guys actually compete and run well on the same day. Our (No.) 3, 4 and 5 guys really did everything we hoped they'd do and more. I told them 30 was the magic number, and four of them got in the top 30, and the fifth placed 37th."

Buoyed by the top 30 finishes of O'Brien (16 minutes, 18.56), Rob Manning (19th, 16:39.81), Andy Gonzalez (28th, 16:57.69) and Austin Hunt (29th, 17:02.01), Collins Hill took the title with 109 points to win a close battle with three other teams - two of them Gwinnett neighbors.

Brookwood placed second with 123 points - paced by Tyler Anyan's eighth-place finish at 16:25.22 - while Parkview tied with Cobb County power Walton with 128 points but was awarded third place when the Panthers' sixth runner finished higher than the Raiders'.

That tie-breaker wouldn't have been possible without a late kick by Josh Pinson, who rushed by Walton's Mark Vigliotti in the final few meters to capture third place in a time of 16:02.44, trailing only champion Zack Flickinger of Lassiter and J.P. Hackney of Kell.

"He started slowing down the last half-step," Pinson said of Vigliotti.

"I knew he wasn't moving as fast as I was down the (final) hill. I just said to myself, 'I've got to do it.'"

Pinson was the highest individual finish by a Gwinnett runner, and the Panthers, Collins Hill and Brookwood were three of six county teams to place in the top 10, with Peachtree Ridge taking sixth (147), Mill Creek placing ninth (214) and Grayson taking 10th (217).

While Collins Hill was winning its first title in eight seasons, Wesleyan was capturing its third straight after scoring 28 points, thanks in no small part to four top-10 individual finishes - Matt Hanlon (third, 16:46.58), Brandon Ramsey (sixth, 16:46.58), Matt Gossett (seventh, 16:54.88) and Christopher Duvall (10th, 17:06.51).

"They did terrific," Wesleyan coach Brian Kennerly said of his Wolves.

"Each race is a different race. Each championship is a different championship. To me, this comes down to the leadership of our seniors teaching our younger kids what it means to compete hard as a team and have dedication."

Among Gwinnett's other participants, Providence Christian had a big day by placing third in Class A on the strength of top-10 inidividual finishes by Elias Crist (fifth, 17:09.47) and Eric Mills (eighth, 17:22.16).

Dacula placed fourth in the Class AAAA meet as Mike McClay placed eighth at 16:39.40.