CARROLLTON — The Class AAAAAAA boys cross country championships was Myles Collins and a pack of runners trying to chase him down on Saturday in Carrollton.
Nobody caught him.
The Archer senior took home the individual title with a blistering time of 15 minutes, 46.77 seconds, the second fastest time in course history, and helped the Tigers finish eighth in the team standings with 190 points. He was backed up by teammates Sebastian Rodriguez (20th, 16:57.18) and Steven McCartney (39th, 17:14.00).
“(Collins’) strategy was to go out hard in the first mile and see who hangs with him,” Archer head coach John McCartney said. “Nobody went with him. In the first 200 meters, he was all by himself. It was like the other coaches told their guys not to go with him. It was awesome. He’s a stud.”
Collins hoped for the all-time course record at Carrollton, but was content with the No. 2 time and was thrilled to reach his goal of a state championship.
“(Winning state) means a lot to me,” Collins said. “I’ve been wanting a ring for a state championship for four years now. My teammates push me a lot, my parents are super supportive and Coach McCartney helped me a lot. He’s a big part of helping me achieve my goals. I went from a basketball player to state champion runner in four years. Hard work pays off.”
Brookwood led Gwinnett in the team standings by finishing sixth overall with 172. The Broncos were led by a trio of top-25 finishers in Luke McNeil (23rd, 17:00.79), Will Bray (24th, 17:02.66) and Seth Wheeler (25th, 17:03.97). Jackson Harper (45th, 17:19.24) also was in the top 50.
Norcross finished narrowly behind Brookwood with 183 points, giving them seventh overall. Miguel Schlicht (15th, 16:47.51) was the third Gwinnett runner to cross the finish line and the first from Norcross. Joseph Winters (33rd, 17:09.13), Gabriel Schlicht (34th, 17:11.01) and Yonas Chimbanda (47th, 17:20.96) all picked up top 50 finishes for the Blue Devils.
“These boys have just been working all year,” Norcross head coach Nathan Brooks said. “Last year we got eighth, and although (the runners) were excited, it didn’t sit well with them. They wanted something more today, and they got seventh. We had a recent push, grew from last year, and will be looking to grow from this year to see if we get higher than seventh next year.”
Parkview was the other Gwinnett school to claim a top-10 finish, checking in at ninth place with 224 points. A pair of sub-17 minute finishes aided that success as Tristan Autry (12th, 16:40.75) and Caden Hall (18th, 16:53.52) powered the Panthers. Yonathan Tekle (46th, 17:19.64) also made the top 50.
Mill Creek (11th, 283 points), North Gwinnett (16th, 430 points), Shiloh (19th, 513 points) and Grayson (21st, 571 points) rounded out Gwinnett's representation on the boys side. Brian Pelland (26th, 17:04.06) and Ethan Nordman (50th, 17:22.22) made the top 50 for Mill Creek. Shiloh got a 29th-place finish from Nathan Solomon (17:06.37). Grayson’s Chris Cherono was 49th (17:21.83).
The girls race came to a conclusion about an hour later, and three Gwinnett teams managed to pick up a top-10 finish.
Brookwood led the pack with 212 points in seventh place. Reese Saddler (14th, 20:07.89) was the standout performer for the Broncos, with her time being good enough for second among all Gwinnett runners. Brookwood had two other runners finish under 21 minutes in Allie Wardle (36th, 20:49.14) and Emma Ingalls (38th, 20:51.84).
Their rivals from Lilburn were just a tick behind them in eighth, as Parkview had four top-50 finishers. Abi Debebe (31st, 20:41.37) got it started for the Panthers, backed by Claire Mills (42nd, 20:56.23), Kendal Sparks (49th, 21:06.95) and Elise Musser (50th, 21:07.70). Mill Creek finished 10th, led by Isabelle Hahn (21st, 20:26.26) and Edith Kahiga (39th, 20:52.77).
North Gwinnett (13th, 316 points) was the best of the rest among Gwinnett teams, followed by Norcross (14th, 369 points), Archer (16th, 441 points) and Grayson (22nd, 615 points). Jewel Lewis was North’s top finisher in 37th (20:49.64). Claudia Gatti took 17th (20:19.16) to lead Norcross, while teammate Merritt Blum was 43rd (20:59.66). Archer got a 29th-place finish from Sarah McCartney (20:34.29).
Mountain View’s Madison Watts was the highest individual finisher from Gwinnett, checking in at 12th place with a time of 20:01.31.
“(Watts) runs this course and this meet really well,” Mountain View head coach Lindsey McDaniel said. “This is her third year running here. Last year she was the top county runner, and today was the same thing. She runs the state meet really well. The atmosphere works for her.”