ATLANTA - The Brookwood boys swimming and diving team started Saturday's Gwinnett County Swimming and Diving Championships with a flurry, and its early victories seemed to quiet the favored Parkview Panthers slightly.
Then Chris Barnidge picked the energy back up.
The Parkview senior scored a surprise victory in the 50-yard freestyle, helping star Andrew Ruffing and the Panthers win their third straight county championship with 741.5 points. Brookwood came on strong to take second with 620 points, while Mill Creek, Norcross and Collins Hill also finished in the top five.
Barnidge brought the day's most emotional celebration after winning the 50 free in 22.06 seconds. It was a shock because he was in Lane 8, the slowest of the top eight swimmers in qualifying, and he came within 0.17 seconds of falling into the consolation final after qualifying.
He seemed stunned as he looked up at the scoreboard, then went into an intense celebration of running, jumping and fist pumping.
"When Chris won the 50 it sort of transformed things," Parkview coach Jack Gayle said. "He got psyched up and I think the whole mood lifted. It was kind of like a jump start."
Ruffing had his typical standout performance, taking first in the 100 butterfly at 49.82, a county meet record that also matched the all-time county record, set back in 1991 by Shiloh's Clay Tippins. The Parkview junior picked up another win later in the evening, winning the 100 backstroke in 51.50.
The victories by Barnidge and Ruffing were the only individual wins for the Panthers, who won because of their superior depth. They closed the meet with a county meet record of 3:12.85 in the 400 freestyle, taking first with the foursome of Barnidge, Ruffing, Kyle Newhouse and Clarence Messler after Brookwood's first-place relay was disqualified for an early start.
While Brookwood had more first-place finishes on Saturday, the trophy stayed with the Panthers like it has for the majority of the time since the early 1990s.
"I know the guys feel a lot of pressure to defend (the county title) and we had a lot of great swims," Gayle said.
Brookwood's 200 medley relay started the competition with a county meet record of 1:37.10, and Stephen Swan followed with a first-place swim in the 200 freestyle at 1:41.63, topping a county meet record set in 2003 by John Millen of Parkview. Swan also was on the medley relay with Zach Lopez, Brandon Clay and Danny Nguyen.
The Broncos' Nguyen won the 200 individual medley in 1:57.56 and his team added a huge win in the 200 freestyle relay with a county meet record time of 1:28.62, edging runner-up Parkview's 1:28.74. The Panthers had a decent lead entering the anchor leg, but the Broncos' No. 4 swimmer, Lopez, closed the gap and won the event. He was joined on the relay by Mark Dunn, Ken Bolton and Conor Sweeney.
Swan later added a county meet and overall county record with a first-place finish in the 100 freestyle (46.12).
Lopez won the 100 breaststroke handily with a time of 57.98, but it wasn't quite enough for the Broncos to overtake rival Parkview.
"I'm impressed with the boys stepping up and swimming well, even though they knew it was a challenge with Parkview's depth and Parkview's strength," Brookwood coach Greg Puckett said.
Zach Tillman of Mill Creek blistered the field in the 500 freestyle, taking first in 4:39.61. He was the only boys county champion not to swim for Brookwood or Parkview.