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Collins Hill girls reloaded to 3-peat

For most teams, losing half your point total off a state championship team means a rebuilding year.

Not at Collins Hill.

The Eagles' girls track and field team lost major point scorers like Jackie Drouin and Nicole Okolo, but there hasn't been a drop off.

Collins Hill will be in the mix for a third state championship this week at Hugh Mills Stadium in Albany. Qualifying for the running finals is today, field events will be Friday and the running finals are on Saturday.

"I think we've got a pretty good chance," said Collins Hill coach Andrew Hudson, whose team has placed in the top four every year since 2002. "Redan probably has more point potential than we do, but I think we've got a chance."

Collins Hill is led by distance runner Amanda Winslow, hurdler Imani Ellis, sprinter Symone Glover and the 1,600-meter relay team of Sydney Williams, Nicky Akande, Ellis and Glover.

Allyson McGinty and Katie Gezon will play major factors in the 3,200 and 300 hurdles as well.

Collins Hill's biggest weakness is in the field events where the Eagles didn't qualify anyone. They'll have to make up those points on the track and certainly have plenty of firepower.

"It would be nice to have field event points, but we've got so much on the track," Hudson said.

Winslow looks poised to continue the Eagles' dominance in the distance events, which Drouin did the last four years.

The junior is ranked No. 3 in the nation with a time of 4 minutes, 49.19 seconds in the 1,600 and has the second-best time in the state in the 3,200 (10:54.58). Only Chamblee's Emily Reese, who competes in Class AAA, has a better time.

"I feel very good by what we've seen this year that she should win it," Hudson said. "She's head and shoulders above everybody else. I feel like Amanda is the favorite in both races."

Ellis will have to battle defending state champion Jasmine Edgerson in the 100 hurdles. Ellis took fourth in the event last year, but has taken nearly half a second off her time from last year.

Ellis is the top returner in the 300 hurdles, but several young hurdlers have emerged this season with blistering times to make it a competitive field.

"She's a pretty good bet to be up there in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles will be a challenge," Hudson said. "I think she has a shot to win both events, I just don't know how good of a shot."

Here are some other individuals to watch out for at this week's state meet:

Machovec on a mission

Dacula thrower Eve Machovec can cement her place as one of the top throwers in Gwinnett County history this week.

The defending Class AAAA state champion in shot put and discus is favored to win both events again. However, the senior could also add personal bests.

"Definitely, I want to win state," Machovec said. "But if I can PR that would be the best."

Machovec, who will throw at Georgia next season, has the top throw in the state this season of 149 feet, 2 inches in the discus. The second best in the state is nearly 12 inches back. She's also ranked No. 7 in the nation.

Her best throw in the shot put this season is 44-10.

"I'm looking to throw 45 (in the shot put), that's what I've been practicing for," Machovec said. "I want to throw 145 in discus. I think all of those are possible."

Taren it up

Taren White has already proven to be the top sprinter in the county by easily winning county and region championships the last two years.

The Grayson sophomore will try to make her presence felt at the state level this week.

White has some of the top times in the 100 and 200 in the state this year, but a state championship would make her one of Georgia's elite. She set a personal record in the 200 at region last week by running 24.65 seconds. Her time of 11.92 in the 100 is in the top 10 in the state and fifth-best in AAAAA.

A standout on the Rams' basketball team, White was a third-place finisher in the 200 and fourth in the 100 as a freshman last year.

Quite an athlete

Norcross' Tiffany Clarke might be one of the best all-around athletes at the meet this week.

The junior is a standout volleyball and basketball player for the Blue Devils, so it's no surprise that she qualified for the triple jump and high jump. She also managed to qualify in the shot put.

It's unlikely that she'll compete for a state title in all three events, but she should in the triple jump.

Clarke's mark of 36-91/2 is one of the tops in the state this year and is second-best in Class AAAAA. She took fourth in the event last year and was seventh in shot put. Her region qualifying mark of five feet in the high jump is not impressive, but she has cleared 5-2 this year.

By the end of the week Clarke could be a state placer in all three events.

Ring collector

You can never win enough state championships rings. At least that's the case for Anne Marie Armstrong. The Wesleyan junior already has six state championships - three in volleyball, two in basketball and one in track - and could have another ring by this weekend.

Armstrong is the defending Class AA state champion in the high jump and is favored to repeat. Armstrong's personal best this season is 5 feet, 6 inches, which is fourth best in the state and tops in AA.

The 6-foot-3 volleyball and basketball star could also challenge for the state's top jump this year, which is 5-7.

SideBar: Track and Field

· What: Girls state track and field championships

· When: Today-Saturday

· Where: Hugh Mills Stadium, Albany