Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Brookwood's Robert Edwards clears the last hurdle in the 110-meter hurdle event during the Region 8-AAAAA meet on Wednesday. Edwards placed first in the event and Brookwood took home the overall win.
LOGANVILLE -- Kirubel Erassa darted a glance over his left shoulder with one lap to go.
He saw nothing and a small grin crept onto his face.
One more trip around the track and the grin spread wide as the Grayson senior streamed across the finish line with a personal record time of 8 minutes, 58.95 seconds in the 3,200-meter run on Wednesday.
Erassa looked to the sky and held both hands out in a gesture that spoke of sweet redemption.
Last year, Erassa was third in this event at the Region 8-AAAAA meet and missed qualifying for state.
He left no doubt this time.
"I like to go out by myself," Erassa said. "Every day, I just want to go to the front. But today I was like, I've been injured, I just need to qualify.
"I wasn't expecting to break 9 (minutes)."
Training hard and being smart helped Erassa avenge last year's result. He stayed a stride behind Brookwood's Tyler Anyan for the first six laps, then made his move on the back stretch of the seventh lap. Erassa broke smoothly away and accelerated at an inspiring rate.
"Last year, after a mile, I lost my energy," Erassa said. "This year I learned a lot about recovery, about getting prepared, about doing hard workouts.
"My plan was to stay within (the lead) for six and a half laps. I was thinking about going with 800 (meter left), but I said, no, let me be safe. Because I have a lot of speed."
Anyan was second for the second year in a row, finishing nearly 10 seconds behind Erassa. But his efforts earned him another state berth and helped Brookwood unseat Parkview for the team title.
The Broncos had three region champions Wednesday and racked up 139 points. Parkview, last year's winner, was second with 118 points.
"We have a great region and it's very, very competitive," head coach Bill Shields said. "But I'm happy for our seniors, certainly. It was their last shot and we had some good performances tonight.
"We got off to a great start on Monday and had some big performances that really helped us."
Brookwood's girls won three events, but couldn't overcome Parkview's lead. The Panthers retained their region title, despite having just one individual champ -- Alexis Jones-Hardy in the 100.
"We had several kids who had outstanding performances, but we've been nickel-and-diming people to death this year," Parkview girls coach Matt Henson said. "There are some things we're good at. Alexis Jones-Hardy came out and shocked the world, ran the 100, but she also doubled in the 100 hurdles.
"We just tried to spread it out. We're young and we're very excited. Every event we made the finals in, we PR'd today. Whether we won or not."
Jones-Hardy broke school records in the 100, the 100 hurdles and ran the anchor leg of the 400 relay that set another benchmark for Parkview.
"I can't say enough about Alexis," Henson said. "The most incredible thing is those races are back-to-back-to-back."
In a similarly impressive showing, Keenan Harp was a difference-maker for the Brookwood boys with a title in the 100. He had the fifth fastest time in prelims, but blistered the track in 10.51.
"I think that's the fastest time in the state," Shields said.
It was certainly a personal best for Harp.
"When I was qualifying, I was mostly hurt from the 4X100," Harp said. "But (the finals) was actually .06 faster from my other PR. It was a race. Good competition."
The Broncos also swept the hurdle events with Robert Edwards in the 110 and Patrick Kelley in the 300.
They also got state qualifying efforts from Carter Hewitt in the 800 and Anyan in the 3,200.
"It's not only those kids," Shields said. "But Paul Beaty, he finished sixth in the (110) hurdles. Robert Edwards finished fourth in the 300 (hurdles).
"That's what we like to stress to our kids -- it's not just the first places. Second through eighth, we've got to score some points."
Taren White was a double winner for Grayson, repeating as champion in the 200 with a personal record 24.10 and churning over the finish line well ahead of the rest of the field in a new event for her, the 400.
She also anchored the winning 1,600 relay for the Rams.
Berkmar was victorious in both girls hurdles events. Victoria Hines won the 100 with teammate Mariah Ransom as runner-up and Ransom came back to win the 300 hurdles.
"I knew I had competition when I came to region," said Hines, who was third in the state as a sophomore in the event. "But I did my job.
"We were hoping to go 1-2 and we did. We were a little nervous at the end, waiting to see if (Ransom) got second."
Brookwood also had a 1-2 finish in the 800 with Sarah Perry outleaning QuanDra Shanks at the finish line. It was an especially poignant win for Perry.
"I've trained really hard all season with all my teammates, but I'd say the biggest motivation was that my best friend, Amanda Riley, passed away a few weeks ago and her last race was in the 800," Perry said. "So I wanted to run this for her. The best part wasn't winning. The best part was just knowing that she could watch the whole thing."
Also winning titles were South Gwinnett's Kevin Gary and Grayson's Billy Kovalczyk. Gary won the 400 after finishing second last year and then added another win with a photo finish in the 200. Kovalczyk won the 800 for the second year in a row.