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Gwinnett, Cobb to face off in pool

It's clear where swimming and diving excellence resides in Georgia's largest classification -- in two counties.

Gwinnett and Cobb teams have combined to win 20 of the past 24 state championships in Class AAAAA (AAAA before 2001), including a current run of 10 straight titles by Gwinnett boys teams. Cobb's only boys champion in that span was Pope in 1999.

But the girls championship has resided lately in Cobb, with two titles in a row by Lassiter, which also won in 2005. Gwinnett hasn't had a girls team champion in the biggest class since Brookwood won four straight from 2001 to 2004.

Those two counties will square off again at the state meet in February, but a preview comes this weekend when they battle in head-to-head competition at the annual Cobb-Gwinnett Challenge.

The bragging rights in this meet have been severely one-sided -- Gwinnett has never lost to Cobb in the meet's first eight years.

"I believe that there are a lot of expectations from our coaches for our kids to swim well in this meet," said Duluth coach Jim Reason, who organizes the meet with his twin brother David, who coaches Cobb's Kennesaw Mountain. "We have a lot of pride in the success of our programs and I know that the Cobb coaches do, too. Since this will be our last meet for three weeks, I told my kids that this is the meet they will have in their minds over the break and to leave a good feeling about how we did. I expect them to swim well."

The event begins today with Mill Creek and Collins Hill facing Kennesaw Mountain and Walton at West Gwinnett. The other seven divisions compete on Saturday at Mountain Park, West Gwinnett and Cobb's Central Aquatic Center. Cobb will host the top teams (based on finish at last year's county championships) at 8:15 a.m. Saturday. That division features Brookwood and Parkview against Lassiter and Pope. Brookwood is the two-time defending AAAAA boys champion and Lassiter's girls have won the past two AAAAA crowns narrowly over Brookwood.