ALBANY -- It took well into Friday's field event finals before a Gwinnett County athlete managed an individual state championship at this year's state girls track and field championships at Hugh Mills Stadium.
But Brookwood's Emily Brewer finally broke the ice by winning the Class AAAAA discus and Collins Hill 1,600-meter runner Nicky Akande joined her atop the podium by the end of what was still a successful day despite only the two individual titles.
Combined with top-eight finishes from Caroline Kissel and Sarah Perry in the 1,600, Brewer's title helped Brookwood remain Gwinnett's top Class AAAAA team heading into today's running-event finals, with the Broncos near the top the leaderboard -- pending the calculation of the 1,600 results -- with 32 team points.
The Broncos have just one finalist today -- the 1,600-meter relay team in the meet's final event, which means maintaining the lead is unlikely.
Still, co-head coach Kelly Sowers is pleased with her team's performance.
"We're at 32 points right now," Sowers said. "Last year, we got fourth with 34.5 or something like that. I really can't think about that right now because I'm so overwhelmed."
Brewer was part of what overwhelmed Sowers by capturing the county's first individual state title of this year's meet with a discus toss of 131 feet, 4 inches, bettering her previous personal record of 130-4 that won her the title a year ago.
"I definitely had calm nerves (by thinking of last year's title)," Brewer said. "I just kind of realized what I was here to do. I was getting into the mindset that I was competing against myself."
Brewer's toss headed up a strong Gwinnett group in the AAAAA discus, with Mill Creek's Chandler Griffin finishing just behind in the runner-up spot at 123-3, while Parkview's Emily Chosewood took sixth at 117-1.
Akande then ended the day with an exclamation point, leading a 1-2-3 Gwinnett sweep by winning the 1,600 with a time of 4:57.04, followed closely by Brookwood's duo of Kissel (5:04.56) and Perry (5:05.15).
"It was really tough," said the Eagles' senior, who will attempt to reclaim the 800-meters title she won as a sophomore two years ago today. "I was just trying to push as hard as I could. ... I wanted to break five (minutes). I wanted to (do it) by more than that, but winning is just completely extraordinary."
Though no other local Class AAAAA athlete won an individual title, several turned in top-eight finishes, including two for Peachtree Ridge's Monique Pate.
Meanwhile, both of Gwinnett's reigning small classification team champions face uphill battles in trying to defend those titles.
Defending AA champion GAC held a scant seven-point lead over North Oconee heading into the final event of the day, and are hoping for strong finishes from two individual sprint qualifiers and a relay team to hold off serious challenges from North Oconee, and others like Region 6-AA rival Westminster, Early County and Gordon Central.
"It's going to be a fun day (today)," Spartans coach Brad Kinser said. "We'll be in the hunt, which makes it fun. We may not have quite enough to get there, but we'll be watching the scoreboard. It's what we've worked for all year."
Danielle Moss had a good day for the Spartans, finishing as state runner-up in the shot put with a toss of 39-1.
Claire Goodson was unexpectedly dethroned as Class AA state pole vault champion by Samantha Sanchez of Blessed Trinity.
However, she did earn GAC valuable team points with her runner-up finish, while Jessica Tuggle took third in the triple jump and fifth in the long jump to aid the Spartans' cause.
Meanwhile, Wesleyan is fighting it out with Athens Academy and Athens Christian in Class A with 28 points after Friday's events, after getting a runner-up finish by Holli Wilkins in the shot put, plus scoring in five other events.
And with Our Lady of Mercy and current leader Athens Christian both sending more representatives to today's finals than the Wolves, coach Candler Baxley knows holding onto the team title will be a chore.
"Our goal coming in was to go top four," said Baxley, whose team also got top-eight individual finishes from Wilkins (eighth, discus), Erin Hall (sixth, long jump and eighth, high jump), Wilson Sprinkle (eighth, pole vault) and Erika Ramsey (fifth, 3,200). "We wanted to get a trophy, and if a lot of things fell into place, we thought we'd be one of the teams in the mix. That may be tough now, but we're excited."