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After a month of training, North ready for county meet

Photo: Karl L. Moore North Gwinnett's Caroline Shimkus finishes strong in the 2012 Stage Races at River Green in Duluth last month.

Photo: Karl L. Moore North Gwinnett's Caroline Shimkus finishes strong in the 2012 Stage Races at River Green in Duluth last month.

John Rowland is excited to see what his team will do this week.

For the past month, the North Gwinnett cross country program spent its afternoons training for the season.

While most teams have three or four races under their belt by now, North has just two.

"We've been focusing on the training," Rowland said. "So we decided to push back racing in hopes of running well later."

Rowland will finally get to see what his team looks like on the course. North will run in Gwinnett County championships this Saturday at River Green Park in Duluth.

"It's time to see where we stand up against the Gwinnett County teams," Rowland said. "I'm interested to see where we are at."

The lack of races for North is twofold. Rowland likes to spend the first month of the season training with little competition. It has also allowed some runners to recover from injuries and get some runners in shape after a late summer track season.

"We've focused on training the last month," Rowland said. "We hope we're rested and we'll see where we are at."

Both teams raced in the Carrollton Invitational on Saturday. It was the first 5K race for the girls team all season. They were the top Gwinnett team at the Stage Races, a preseason two-mile race. The Bulldogs are trying to replace four seniors off last year's team.

"It's a really young team," Rowland said.

The boys team has raced twice this year and were sixth at the Early Bird Invitational three weeks ago.

Andres Littig was the Bulldogs' top finisher, taking seventh place with a time of 16 minutes, 15.13 seconds.

"Andres kicked things off running well," Rowland said. "He's followed up a great track season and is running well."

Spencer Bradham, Trevor Bradham, Cole York, Tony Jones, Will Varner and Trey Powers have also run well for North early this season.

"We've got a good group of seniors. They've been progressing the last few years," Rowland said. "This is one of the strongest teams we've had. Last year we finished sixth at state."

North's boys finished sixth at last year's state meet and hasn't had a team finish in the top five in the last 10 years. Rowland will find out if he has a team that has the potential to reach the podium this weekend at county.

"The Gwinnett County meet is traditionally one of the most competitive meets, so it's a great measuring stick where we'll be at state," Rowland said. "Our goal is to get both teams to state and place well."