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Parkview boys team faces big challenge from Collins Hill in Gwinnett County swimming championships

There have been years where other teams have had a serious chance, as well as others where no challenger was close.

Through them all, few boys swimming and diving teams have been able to wrestle the Gwinnett County championship away from Parkview.

The Panthers have reigned as county champions the past four seasons and for 19 of the past 22, but they will face one of their most serious challenges this weekend in Collins Hill.

“I think this year we face our stiffest competition in the decade I’ve been at Parkview,” Parkview coach Jack Gayle said of the meet, which concludes with Saturday’s swimming finals at the West Gwinnett Aquatic Center. “On the boys side, Collins Hill has steadily improved year after year to emerge as one of the favorites, but we’re not quite ready to hand over the county championship just yet.”

The last boys team to win county other than Parkview was rival Brookwood in 2009. Before that, the only two blemishes for the Panthers came in 2004 and 2005, when Collins Hill swept the Gwinnett and state championships.

The Eagles hope to take another county title away from Parkview, which has won the past two state championships and eight state titles since 2000.

“Parkview is the two-time defending state champion and has dominated the county for so long that we expect them to be the favorite,” said Collins Hill associate head coach Paul Callis, in his first season with the Eagles after a 18-year tenure as Shiloh’s head coach. “Even though Parkview lost many talented seniors last year, they have done an amazing job of reloading. We believe in our swimmers and divers here at Collins Hill and we will be ready to race.”

Collins Hill has built its depth, the key to winning in the county scoring system, up in recent seasons. But the roster also features some talented individual swimmers like Cody Bekemeyer, Alfonso Castillo and Taylor Aguirre, who all had top-five finishes at last year’s county meet.

Bekemeyer won the 500-yard freestyle last season in a county-meet record time of 4 minutes, 32.78 seconds. He also was third in the 200 free.

“We are very excited to compete this weekend and feel our swimmers, divers and coaches are well prepared,” said Collins Hill head coach Jenny Weaver, who also coached the Eagles’ 2004 and 2005 county and state title teams. “Our trip to Chattanooga (for the McCallie Invitational) and Wesleyan along with our many close meets against our local rivals have prepared us well.”

In the girls meet, the two programs that have fared the best in recent years — Mill Creek and Brookwood — are among the top contenders again. Mill Creek ended the Broncos’ two-year hold on the county championship last season, winning its second Gwinnett title. Brookwood had won 11 of the previous 13 county meets prior to last season.

Peachtree Ridge also could factor in the team title chase, but its strength is a group of high level swimmers, not overall depth and sheer numbers that is typically rewarded at county. That likely makes the Lions more of a threat to win the Class AAAAAA state meet in two weeks with its scoring system that only rewards points to the top finishers.

SWIMMING

What: Gwinnett County Swimming and Diving Championships, swimming finals

When: Saturday, 5 p.m.

Where: West Gwinnett Aquatic Center

Defending champions: Parkview boys, Mill Creek girls