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Coach Wood invite draws top teams, runners

The Coach Wood Invitational not only will give teams one more race before the postseason, it also will be a preview of the state meet.

Some of the top teams and top runners in the state, especially in Class AAAAA, will be competing in the fifth annual race at Gainesville College on Saturday.

"It's the last big meet of the season before region and state, especially if teams are taking next week off," Dacula coach Andy Christie said.

Gwinnett County will be represented by 14 different schools, including powers Collins Hill, Brookwood and Parkview.

The girls championship race will feature seven of the top 10 teams in Class AAAAA. The race could be a repeat of the county meet with Parkview, North Gwinnett, Brookwood and Peachtree Ridge chasing Collins Hill. Etowah and Roswell could also play a factor.

"We've always loved racing at Gainesville College," Collins Hill coach Andrew Hudson said. "We've had tremendous success the last few years and hopefully not for the last time. We'll see where everyone is before they close their doors before the state meet."

Collins Hill won last year's race and the Eagles are poised to win it again. Amanda Winslow has been the team's No. 1 runner this season, while Nicky Akande and Allyson McGinty have also been in the lead pack.

Last year's champion, Chamblee's Emily Reese, will defend her title and will battle Parkview's Lindsey Ebert, North Gwinnett's Nicole Dimercurio, Grayson's Abby Self and Peachtree Ridge's Sara Curry.

The boys race lacks some of the top teams in the state, but there's still plenty of top competition.

Lassiter is back to defend its title along with other top teams Collins Hill, Brookwood, South Forsyth, Peachtree Ridge, Dacula and Etowah.

Four of the top six runners return from last year's race. Pope's Miles Svoboda is the top returning finisher after placing second last year. Lassiter's Zack Flickinger, Kell's Joseph Hackney and Mill Creek's Colin Conroy all finished in the top six a year ago. Collins Hill's Rob Manning and Philip O'Brien and Oconee's Jarryd Wallace could also play a factor.

The meet is named after former South Gwinnett coach Rick Wood, who now coaches at Grayson. Wood coached Christie and Mill Creek coach Daniel Monroe while at South.

Also at the race will be Jorge Torres, a Reebok sponsored athlete, who ran for cross country power Colorado and was a 2002 NCAA champion.

SideBar: Cross country

What: Coach Wood Invitational

When: Saturday, 8 a.m.

Where: Gainesville College

Schedule:

' 8:00 a.m. - Girls Championship Race

' 8:40 a.m. - Boys Championship Race

' 9:20 a.m. Girls JV-A Race

' 10:00 a.m. Boys JV-A Race

' 10:40 a.m. Girls Varsity Race

' 11:20 a.m. Boys Varsity Race

' Noon - Girls JV-B Race

' 12:40 p.m. - Boys JV-B Race

' 1:20 p.m. - Open Boys and Girls Race