Eagles leading charge in new sport

Gwinnett's high school dominance in the pool has been amazing, with 14 team state championships since 2000, including the last 10 boys titles in the state's largest classification.

But that's swimming. Who knew the county would fare well in water polo, too?

Yet Gwinnett's doing well with that sport, too, thanks to Collins Hill.

The Eagles' club water polo team won the state championship last season with an unbeaten record, not bad for its first season in the sport. Collins Hill enters this weekend's state playoffs - held Saturday and Sunday in Jonesboro - with a 14-1 record and as state title favorite again.

This year's prosperity has come despite losing 12 seniors off the school's first water polo team.

"Our confidence is pretty high now," said Collins Hill coach Jenny Weaver, who led the Eagles to swimming and diving state titles in 2004 and 2005.

"At the beginning of the season, we knew we had a lot of work to do. But the kids buckled down and I think we have more confidence now than they thought we'd have at this point."

Weaver relies heavily on one of her swimming assistants, lay coach Brian Collins, who is head coach of the water polo team. Captains Drew Klaer and goalie Brad Miller lead the defense, while Michael Britt is the top offensive threat. Jerry Davis and Nassim Talbi also are in the starting lineup with Jenn Rutledge, the only female starter.

The team's roster features 15 boys and five girls, who aim for a championship this week in a grueling, albeit rare for this area, sport.

"You've got to constantly keep your body up (out of the water), even when guys are hanging all over you," Klaer said. "It's the hardest thing I've ever done."