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Brookwood's title streak on the line at state meet

For nearly the last 20 years, Brookwood's boys cross country team has done a nice job of filling up the school's trophy case.

The Broncos have placed fourth or better at the state meet for the last 18 years and have won 11 state titles all-time.

The three-time defending state champion's streak of podium appearances is in jeopardy at the state meet on Saturday in Carrollton.

"It could be. There's a lot of good teams this year," Brookwood coach Ben Dehnke said. "The gap from one to five is relatively slim. If we don't run well and some other teams do, that's a possibility."

The Broncos didn't fare too well at the Coach Wood Invitational and Region 8-AAAAAA championships, causing some to think Brookwood's reign may be over.

"There's a lot of teams more favorite than we are, but we are going to give it our best," Dehnke said. "We like being the underdog."

Gwinnett County boys teams have won the last 12 state championships in the highest classification and 23 of the 28 titles. Mill Creek appears to be Gwinnett's best shot to extend that streak after winning county and Region 7 titles.

"We want to win, but we know we can run really well and not win," Mill Creek coach Andy Christie said. "We're focusing on our race."

The Hawks will battle Region 7 teams Peachtree Ridge and Norcross, defending champion Brookwood and Cobb County powers Marietta and Walton for the crown.

"A lot of people are talking about it being a Mill Creek vs. Marietta showdown, but we're prepared to race anyone and everyone," Christie said. "It's foolish to count anyone out."

Peachtree Ridge's Josh Brickell is the two-time defending state champion. His time of 14 minutes, 57.50 seconds at the Great American XC Festival is the fastest in the state this year.

Brookwood is the county's best hope for a title in the girls race. The Broncos were third at last year's state meet and are ranked No. 2 in the state. Led by Quandra Shanks and Ashley Buda, the Broncos will try to take down two-time defending state champion Walton. Peachtree Ridge is also a trophy contender after winning the Region 7-AAAAAA crown.

Norcross' Katherine Yost, the county and Region 7 champion, is favored to win the individual state title.

Wesleyan and Westminster will battle for the Class AA title in the boys and girls races.

The last seven boys Class AA state titles have been won by Wesleyan and Westminster. Wesleyan is moving up from Class A where it captured three straight titles. Westminster has claimed the last four crowns in Class AA. The two private schools are back in Class AA this season and are battling for the title again.

They met last week to decide the Region 6-AA championship, which Westminster won by 12 points.

"Westminster is absolutely incredible," Wesleyan coach Chad McDaniel said. "What they've done as long as they've had a cross country team with the boys winning 21 of 25 state titles and the girls 24 of 28 is incredible. It will be a great challenge to beat them."

It's a similar story in the girls race with Westminster and Wesleyan battling for the title. Westminster has won the last three state championships, while Wesleyan was runner-up in Class A last season. Westminster girls had a 21-point win over Wesleyan at the region meet.

CROSS COUNTRY

What: State cross country championships

When: Saturday

Where: Carrollton High School

Schedule:

• 8:30 a.m. -- Boys AAAA

• 9:15 a.m. -- Girls AAAA

• 10 a.m. -- Boys AA

• 10:45 a.m. -- Girls AA

• 11:30 a.m. -- Boys AAAAAA

• Noon -- Girls AAAAAA

• 1 p.m. Boys AAAAA

• 1:45 p.m. -- Girls AAAAA

• 2:30 p.m. -- Boys AAA

• 3:15 p.m. -- Girls AAA