Jack Gayle will never forget one of the closest state high school swimming and diving meet finishes in Georgia.
It was 1998 and Gayle was a Parkview senior, the anchor of a winning 400-yard freestyle relay team that beat Duluth for the state championship. It all came down to the last race, with the Panthers pulling out a slim 242-234 victory.
Now Parkview's coach, he thinks Saturday's state finals could be similarly close, with his boys team battling rival Brookwood for the Class AAAAA state title.
"I think it's going to be between Parkview and Brookwood (boys)," Gayle said. "I really think it's going to be the closest state meet since '98 and I remember how it exciting that was. I love it. The way it looks like it will shape out is Brookwood will come out swinging and it's up to us to answer them.
"I told our guys, "Brookwood wants this really bad. They're going to bring it. They're swimming with heart and they're swimming with emotion.'"
The Brookwood boys did just that at county, winning two of the three relays and more individual races than Parkview, but the Panthers' depth brought them the team title. The state scoring system, Gayle said, is more favorable for the Broncos.
Parkview still will be rewarded for its excellent depth, just not as much as county.
"I definitely think state (scoring) favors Brookwood because they've got these top, highly-ranked core swimmers," Gayle said. "But we've got 39 kids going to the state meet, the most ever in Parkview history. If ever there was a chance for kids to step up and create a depth problem for Brookwood, it's this year."
Parkview's best title hopes in individual events rest on Andrew Ruffing, who has the state's top time in his two races, the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke. He and teammate Kyle Newhouse (seeded third in the 500 free) are the only two Panthers in the top three in individual events.
Meanwhile Brookwood's highly-seeded swimmers are Stephen Swan (first in both the 100 and 200 free), Zach Lopez (first in 100 breaststroke, third in 200 individual medley), Danny Nguyen (first in 200 IM, second in 100 fly) and Conor Sweeney (second in 200 free and 500 free). The Broncos also have the top times in two of the three relays.
"The boys look strong but it should be a tough battle against Parkview," Brookwood coach Greg Puckett said. "They have already beaten us three times this season and they are the defending state champions. So if any boys team is going to be state champions, they will have to go through Parkview."
While the boys competition could be tight, most coaches consider Brookwood as a heavy favorite in the Class AAAAA girls division.
The Broncos, who won the county championship handily, have the state's best time in all three relays and highly seeded swimmers like Jana Mangimelli (first in 200 IM, third in 100 back), Allyson Sweeney (first in 100 free), Haley Holcombe (second in 100 fly) and Meghan Faulkner (second in 100 breast).
"The girls team is looking to be one of the favorites for the state meet. The main competition should be from Lassiter with Walton, Mill Creek and Parkview also in the hunt," Puckett said. "If we are healthy and near 100 percent, we should have a chance."
Peachtree Ridge's Aileen Cole is the top seed in the girls 50 free as she pursues her third straight state title in the event. Other Gwinnett swimmers who are top seeds are: Mill Creek's Jordan Evans (100 fly), Sommers Creed (500 free) and Zach Tillman (500 free) and North Gwinnett's Caroline Kenney (200 free).
In the Class AAAA/AAA/AA/A division, Dacula's Abigail Alton will defend state titles in the 50 and 100 free as the top seed in both races.
SideBar: State Swimming
· When: Saturday, 9 a.m. with finals starting at 1 p.m.
· Where: Westminster