After a two-year reign by Parkview, the North Gwinnett girls cross country team is back on top.
The Bulldogs finished with 78 points, holding off a competitive top five, to claim their third Gwinnett County team title in the past five years with a strong performance Saturday at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers.
“The girls have been working hard all summer and it paid off in a victory,” North coach John Rowland said. “I am excited for our seniors who have been close to a championship for the last couple of years and now they are champions. This team has big goals this year and this is the first step to accomplishing those goals.”
Hebron Christian senior Ellie Brewer was the individual county winner for the first time in her career, giving her school back-to-back champions after Brooke Browning was first in 2020. Brewer’s first-place 5K time was 19 minutes, 6 seconds, and Browning was seventh in 19:55.
“The race went really well and I felt great the whole time,” said Brewer, who attended Sugar Hill Christian before transferring to Hebron as a junior. “I’ve been training hard over the summer and so far this season in hopes to win this year, so succeeding in that is very exciting and encouraging for the rest of the season. The support of my peers going into the race helped me extremely, so I am very thankful for them and the chance to win.”
A total of 30 seconds separated the top five girls finishers with Norcross’ Kyra Andrews taking second in 19:19. Mill Creek’s Emily Guy narrowly edged Brookwood’s Allie Wardle — 19:26.49 to 19:26.72 — for third place, and Emily Cragin of Archer rounded out the top five with a time of 19:36.
By the end, they were all chasing Brewer.
“Winning county this season was one of Ellie’s goals and when she puts her mind to something, watch out,” Hebron coach Mike Taylor said. “She has worked so hard and is in great shape. I can’t wait to see what is in store for Ellie the remainder of the season.”
North also has high goals for its deep girls team, hopes that were bolstered by Saturday’s impressive performance with four top-20 finishers. Ellie Brink (10th, 20:02), Tori Meyer (11th, 20:05), Maddy Tilson (13th, 20:31) and Sacha Brickey (18th, 20:47) led the way, and Marianna Gazzara was the last scorer in 26th (21:15). North also had Katie Lewis in 29th (21:22) and Arianna Meyer in 42nd (22:13), winning the county team title for the first time since back-to-back championships in 2017 and 2018. Its winning total was 78 points.
“I was really happy for the girls and for (longtime North coach) John (Rowland),” said North coach Chris Carter, who joined the Bulldogs’ coaching staff prior to this year after a long tenure as Brookwood’s head girls coach. “He works his tail off for those kids. This summer those girls believed they could win county and get on the podium at state. It was great to see them accomplish that first goal. They’re a close-knit bunch who have worked really hard. Now they know it’s time to work hard for that second goal.”
Carter’s old team also had a good meet. Brookwood, behind Wardle’s fourth-place run, was runner-up with 101 points. The Broncos’ other top finishers included Macy Felton (20th, 20:54), Hannah Mobley (22nd, 21:04), Addy Keszler (27th, 21:16) and Jillian Rovie (28th, 21:21).
Parkview squeaked past Norcross — both schools finished at 113 — for third place on the sixth runner tiebreaker. Parkview was carried by three runners in the top 10, headlined by Emma Geaney in sixth at 19:39. Teammates Jaimie Chen (eighth, 19:59) and Haley Primm (ninth, 19:59) were close behind.
Andrews’ runner-up finish led Norcross, which also was aided by top-30 finishers Alexa Foster (17th, 20:42), Kylie Dommert (23rd, 21:08) and Elkin Regina (25th, 21:15). Mill Creek took fifth at 135, backing up Guy’s third-place finish with Kathryn Scales in 16th (20:40).
Wesleyan was sixth at 166, led by Eva Murphy in 21st (21:03), and Peachtree Ridge was 10th behind Alitza Dennard (14th, 20:33) and Laney Pierce (15th, 20:39). Hebron, with Brewer and Browning leading the way, was eighth at 234, followed by Dacula (237) and Duluth (244) to round out the top 10. Karsyn Rodney (30th, 21:27) was Dacula’s lone top-30 finisher, while Duluth was led by Lyric Minter in 24th (21:11).
Mountain View’s Kallie Henderson (12th, 20:06) and Grayson’s Virginia Pastor (19th, 20:54) also had top-20 finishes individually.