CONYERS — Every spot in cross country is important. Every coach tells their team that lesson in preparation for every race.
In Saturday's Gwinnett County Championships at the Georgia International Horse Park, that thinking rang true as the Brookwood boys edged out Parkview by one point in the team standings.
"Cross country is thrilling when you have a finish like that," said Brookwood head coach Ben Denke. "This is the kind of finish that shows you this is a team sport. Every effort on our team was meaningful today and our kids saw that."
Archer's Myles Collins set a new county meet record, running 15 minutes, 30 seconds, which was seven seconds better than the previous record set by Peachtree Ridge's Kevin Mills in 2013.
In the battle between the two rival teams, coaches were tallying up points as runners crossed the finish line to see who had the edge.
Parkview's Tristan Autry (16:33) was fourth, while Brookwood's Will Bray (16:36) was fifth and teammate Luke McNeil (16:36) was sixth. The Broncos also had Seth Wheeler (16:49) come across the line, giving the Broncos the early advantage.
But the Panthers stormed backed with 11th- and 12th-place finishes by Caden Hall (16:49) and Andrew Todd (16:51). A 15th-place finish by Parkview's Yonathan Tekle (17:01) and an 18th-place finish by Brookwood's Jackson Harper (17:06) gave the Broncos a three-point lead with both teams having four runners in.
From there, it came down to the fifth runner. Parkview's Heyabel Tekle (17:31) finished 29th and sixth runner Trey Durden (17:34) was 30th. But Brookwood followed up right behind them with finishes of 31st and 32nd by Kai Vigardt (17:35) and Collin Nebiker (17:36), securing the one-point win for the Broncos.
"Our gap (runners one to five) was a little bit larger than I want it to be," Denke said. "We have some strong front runners, but we have to shore up some things in the middle."
Despite the win, Denke said the focus has to remain inward.
"We can't worry about there being a target on our back," he said. "We have to focus on us and not what's around. We got beat by a bunch of teams last week, so there's no risk of complacency."
Taking home the individual title was Collins, who was in a two-man race with Grayson's Chris Cherono for much of the race. However, by the time the pair reached mile two, Collins was comfortably in the lead, winning the race with a time of 15:30.
"It's a testament to Coach (John) McCartney," Collins said. "He's prepared this team very well, both boys and girls."
Collins said he's appreciative of Cherono pushing him throughout the race, helping him reach the time he did.
"He helped me be faster," Collins said. "It's great to have someone like that push you."
Collins' win helped lead the Tigers to a third-place team finish with 79 points. Steven McCartney (16:38) was seventh, while Sebastian Rodriguez (17:06) was 17th.
Norcross finished fourth (83), led by Miguel Schlicht (16:47) in eighth and Gabriel Schlicht (16:57) in 13th.
Rounding out the top 10 individuals were Dacula's Ben Butcher (16:21) in second, Cherono (16:30) in third and Mill Creek's Brian Pelland (16:47) in ninth.