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Tight fight
Grayson's Erassa edges field in county race

DULUTH - As Grayson's Kirubel Erassa approached the finish line of Saturday's county cross country finals at River Green Park, he wasn't sure of where the line actually was.

When he crossed the line, he thought he still had a little ways to go and kept kicking toward what he thought was the end. He knew he was ahead of the pack but didn't realize that he had already won the event and clocked in a time of 15:50, setting a new school record.

"I thought I still had some more to run," Erassa said. "I hate running on the grass because it makes my ankles turn. I like to run on the track because it's flat."

The boys individual race was expected to be a tight battle, and Erassa, the 3,200-meter state winner last spring, had plenty of competition as Dacula's Edgardo Martinez was second at 15:57 followed by a pair of Brookwood runners in Tyler Anyan and Doug Kalmabach in third and fourth, respectively.

The strong finishes by Anyan (16:01) and Kalmabach (16:06) were huge in helping the Broncos to their first team title since 2003 with a total of four runners in the top 10, breaking Parkview's streak of five straight county titles.

"Collins Hill put some pressure on us, but we followed our race plan and I'm proud of how we ran," Brookwood head coach Ben Dehnke said. "We wanted to go and control the first mile and kind of go to work from there. A couple of our guys didn't have great races, but (Sean) Hitchens had a breakthrough race and passed a couple of Collins Hill guys in the last couple hundred meters."

Brookwood finished with 36 points, edging out second-place Collins Hill with 56 points. Rounding out the finishers for the Broncos were Tommy George in sixth place (16:11.82), Michael Sexton in 10th (16:23) and Hitchens in 13th (16:36).

Collins Hill received strong races from Andy Gonzales, who was eighth at 16:18, just ahead of teammate Carlos Galindo at 16:19 in ninth.

Even though Parkview was unable to defend its title, the Panthers still had a strong race, finishing third at 112 points. Peachtree Ridge also finished with 112 points, but the Panthers had the highest finisher with Brian Detweiler in fifth place at 16:11.52, three-tenths of a second ahead of George.

The Lions were led by a seventh-place finish from Robert Fensterer at 16:12, while Wesleyan, a Class AA school, took fifth amongst the throng of Class AAAAA competition with 142 points.

The girls race was expected to be a one-sided affair with Collins Hill as the heavy favorites and the Eagles did not disappoint, taking the team title with a perfect score of 15 points. Amanda Winslow set a new personal best and blew the field away, winning the individual race with a time of 17:40, well ahead of teammate Nicky Akande in second at 18:33.

"I don't think I could have done anything a whole lot different," Amanda said, who was running in just her second race of the year. "Our team is really close this year and we're all really supportive of each other. We compete against each other but at the same time we also compete with each other."

Other finishers for the Eagles were Vicky Winslow in third (18:34), Allyson McGinty in fourth (18:45) and Chloe Whitworth in sixth (18:58).

"This is the best county for cross country in the state of Georgia and to do what we did today is amazing," Collins Hill head coach Andrew Hudson said. "My girls just amaze me all the time with the things they do. Our expectations are very high and we've still got some things we want to do with region, state and even beyond that."

The highest finisher that was not an Eagle was Lauren Kester of Greater Atlanta Christian, who was fifth overall at 18:49. Kester was just one of two Spartan runners competing, eliminating GAC from the team competition. Since GAC could not figure in team final, Kester's points went to the next runner, allowing Collins Hill to finish with a perfect score.

North Gwinnett's Laura Serres (19:01) and Nicole DiMercurio (19:06) finished sixth and seventh respectively to lead the Bulldogs to second place with 59 points. Third place went to Parkview at 117, paced by Sara Brown and Julianne Kirk in 15th and 16th place.

Brookwood, led by Carly Egan in 17th and Anakaren Lopez in 18th, totaled 120 points for fourth place, nipping fifth place Peachtree Ridge by two points. The Lions were led by a pair of top-10 finisher with Sara Curry in ninth at 19:07 and Heather Morris 10th at 19:11.