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Broncos, Panthers to battle at county

Brookwood and Parkview have won the last eight Gwinnett County boys cross country championships and Saturday’s race isn’t expected to be any different.

“This year, at least at this point, it kind of looks like a two-team race,” Brookwood coach Ben Dehnke said.

CROSS COUNTRY

What: What: Gwinnett County Championships

When: Saturday, 8 a.m.

Where: River Green Complex, Duluth

The two rivals are the frontrunners for the race, which will take place at the River Green Complex in Duluth.

“They definitely make us a better team and I’d like to think we push them to make them a better team,” Parkview coach James Tigue said. “It makes us work harder.”

The Broncos are the two-time defending county champs and went on to have one of the best seasons in Georgia history for a boys cross country team last year.

“I think last year’s team winning regionals and being ranked so high motivated the Parkview guys,” Dehnke said. “We knew they were returning a lot and I think that motivated our guys.”

Parkview has five of its seven runners back from last year’s team that placed second at state. The state champion Broncos have just three starters back, but feature several strong first-year starters.

“It’s going to come down to the sixth man,” Tigue said of the county meet. “If it comes down to depth, it would favor Brookwood. They are deeper in the four, five through 10 spots. We’re going to rely on what’s on top.”

While Brookwood and Parkview have won the last eight county meets, there are a handful of teams looking to dethrone them. Region 7-AAAAA powers Collins Hill, Peachtree Ridge and Mill Creek all feature strong teams. All five teams also feature a runner that has a shot to win the individual county title.

“It’s going to be a lot of the guys from the (Daily Post’s preseason) Super Six,” Tigue said. “You’ve got about seven guys that can go for it.”

Parvkiew’s Alec Klassen, Peachtree Ridge’s Josh Brickell and Collins Hill’s Andy Gonzales are the early favorites. Parkview’s Steven Specavek, Mill Creek’s Austin Boetje and Brookwood’s Sean Brennan and Jackson Warn are also in the mix.

“Most of the best individuals and teams are in this meet,” Dehnke said. “It’s probably going to be that way again (at state). It’s a good early season barometer.”

Collins Hill’s run of six straight girls county titles came to an end last year when nearly the entire team was wiped out with illness.

“That was something we hope will never have happen again,” Collins Hill coach Andrew Hudson said.

The Eagles were unable to field an entire team and Brookwood captured its first county crown since 2002. North Gwinnett ended up winning the girls Class AAAAA state meet and all three teams are in the hunt for Saturday’s county title.

“I think us, Brookwood and North Gwinnett are co-favorites and are on the same level,” Hudson said.

While Collins Hill’s run of team titles came to an end last year, Nicky Akande continued the Eagles’ tradition of winning the individual crown for the sixth year. The Eagles feature a pair of runners in Vicky Winslow and Chloe Whitworth that could continue that trend. However, North Gwinnett’s Jordan Humphrey is the only Class AAAAA runner to break 19 minutes this season and Greater Atlanta Christian’s Lauren Kester has been running strong.

“I certainly feel like they can (win it),” Hudson said of his runners. “This is the first year in awhile that we don’t have the clear favorite.”