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Eagles reclaim region title

Photo: David McGregor. Collins Hill's Nicky Akande leads during the first lap of the 800-meter race at the Region 7-AAAAA track meet Tuesday.

Photo: David McGregor. Collins Hill's Nicky Akande leads during the first lap of the 800-meter race at the Region 7-AAAAA track meet Tuesday.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Nicky Akande crossed the finish line after the 800-meter run and turned around to see who was behind her. A bright smile came over her face and she opened up her arms as she hugged teammate Sydney Williams.

The Collins Hill duo finished one-two in the event to push the Eagles to a commanding lead on their way to winning the Region 7-AAAAA championship on Tuesday.

"We really wanted to go one-two," Akande said. "After I crossed the finish line all I could think about was, 'Where's Sydney?'"

Collins Hill scored 1481/2 points to claim its eighth region title in nine years after having its seven-year run snapped last season by Peachtree Ridge. The Lions placed second with 1121/2 points and Mill Creek was third with 88.

"It feels so good," Collins Hill coach Andrew Hudson of the championship. "It hasn't been that long, but it feels like it."

Collins Hill had six qualifiers for the state meet on Tuesday with the top two in each event advancing to Albany. Akande was joined by Chloe Whitworth as the Eagles' only region champions.

"This title means a lot more after knowing what it's like to not win it last year," Akande said. "We were determined to win it and everyone contributed."

Akande, who will run for Villanova next season, won the 1,600-meter region title on Monday and added the 800 crown with a time of 2 minutes, 15.24 seconds. She was also a member of the Eagles' 1,600 relay team -- along with Monique Bennett, Megan Kellar and Williams -- that placed second.

"The 800 sealed the deal, I guess," Hudson said. "But we still had to score more points."

Whitworth continued the Eagles' dominance in the 3,200. Collins Hill has won the event for six straight years. Whitworth pulled away on the final lap of the two-mile race to take the region title with a time of 11:20.30.

"I was just hoping to go to state," the sophomore said. "I wasn't bothered by the hurricane winds."

"I've never been so proud of her," Akande said. "She came out and did what she had to do. She did everything she needed to win."

Peachtree Ridge's Monique Pate captured her third individual region crown after winning the 300 hurdles. The senior, who has been hampered by injuries most of the season, also won the high jump and shot put on Monday. Teammate Autumn Burnette was second in the 100 and 300 hurdles to qualify for state. Pate was also a member of the Lions' 1,600 region champion relay team that featured Camille Smith, Anissa Session and Sonikqua Walters.

After placing second in the 200 and 400 last year, Walters won both events on Tuesday. The sophomore ran a time of 56.16 to win the 400 and 25.16 in the 200.

"I've been wanting this since last year," Walters said. "I got second last year and I wanted to come out this year and make a name for myself."

Duluth took the top spots in the 100 with Maya Thomas claiming the region title and teammate Deja Williams finishing second. The duo have competed against each other all season with Williams winning the county title last month and Thomas placing third. Thomas also qualified for state in the 200 with a second-place finish.

"I was very nervous," Thomas said. "It's the finals and anything can happen."

North Gwinnett's Hannah Mule defended her region title in 100 hurdles with a narrow victory. Mule ran 15.18 seconds, edging Peachtree Ridge's Autumn Burnette (15.21) and Collins Hill's Chelsey Johnson (15.23).

"Man, I wanted this so bad," Mule said. "This year, I don't know, it's my senior year and I wanted to defend my region title. We run against each other all the time and we're always one-two-three."

Mule was also the first leg on the Bulldogs' 400 relay team that held off Collins Hill's A team to win the region crown with a time of 49.08 seconds. The other relay members were Chelsea Spencer, Marissa Jenkins and Shay Fleetwood.