By David Friedlander
CARROLLTON - The final margin in Collins Hill's Class AAAAA state girls cross country state championship may have seemed fairly comfortable - with the Eagles posting 28 points, 37 points ahead of runner-up Walton.
However, coach Andrew Hudson said his Eagles' title Saturday at Carrollton High School - the team's fifth straight title - wasn't as easy as it looked despite the fact his top three runners - Amanda Winslow, Nicky Akande and Allison McGinty - all placed in the top four.
"It was a lot tougher for us than I expected it to be," Hudson said. "(The top three runners) were able to separate themselves with a nice pack of six (runners). I didn't necessarily expect that. The three other girls with them hung tough."
Still, the Collins Hill trio's presence was enough to offset a strong day from the North Gwinnett duo of Laura Serres and Nicole Dimercurio and Walton's Leila Norman to help the Eagles distance the runner-up Raiders (65 points), the third-place Bulldogs (90) and fourth-place Parkview (143).
Winslow was the first to make a move after Norman set a fast pace over the first mile, and she made it stand up to roll to the individual title in a time of 18:25.62.
"I was hoping to make my move after the first mile," the junior said. "I wasn't feeling as good as I usually do, but it worked out having my teammates behind me. I don't know what I would've done without them."
Indeed, Akande and McGinty not only helped push their teammate
forward, but also did OK for themselves. Akande finished second in a time of 18:33.40, while McGinty was sandwiched between Serres and Dimerurio in fourth place at 18:33.98.
Two other Gwinnett teams placed in the top 10, with Grayson coming in just behind Parkview, taking fifth, and Brookwood finishing sixth.
The Panthers were led by Lindsey Ebert (eighth, 19:25.64), while Brooke Van Baush (28th 20:20.64) was the Rams' top runner.
Among Gwinnett's smaller school contingent, Wesleyan overcame the absence of top two runners Kirsten White and Jayne Strader to separate stress fractures to place third in Class AA behind a sixth-place finish from Erika Ramsey in 19:59.08.
Though their teams were not competing, Lauren Kestor of Greater Atlanta Christian and Dottie Kellogg of Buford ran as individuals and placed fourth (19:51.51) and fifth (19:56.69) respectively.
In Class A, Providence Christian used an eighth-place finish by Kelly Kancher (20:55.52) and a ninth-place showing by Allison Preg (21:00.87) to place fourth in the team standings.
Dacula finished 22nd as a team in Class AAAA.