The Gwinnett County swimming and diving championship, with only a few exceptions, has been traded back and forth between Brookwood and Parkview for more than 20 years. North Gwinnett hopes to be one of those exceptions this weekend.
The Bulldogs’ goal to taking the next step in the county meet, which culminates with Saturday’s swimming finals at West Gwinnett Aquatic Center. The girls team has finished as the meet runner-up for six straight years, while the boys have regularly finished among the top teams, including a third-place finish last season.
Some Gwinnett coaches have called the North boys the meet favorites.
“That is our goal for sure,” first-year North coach Paul Callis said of a county championship. “But I wouldn’t consider ourselves the favorites. We’ve never won the (county) meet and plenty of teams are there that have won the meet. We’re still in the hunt mode. It’s more, ‘Hey, we’ve never done this and you have. We’re coming after you.’”
The frontrunners of late wear maroon and gold.
Brookwood’s girls have won five straight county championships, as well as 16 in the past 20 years. The Broncos have won the past four titles in the boys division, too. Keeping both of those trophies in Snellville won’t be easy with North and others in pursuit.
“There is an absolutely insane amount of competition in Gwinnett this season,” Brookwood coach Jack Gayle said. “North Gwinnett is really strong. They have a phenomenal group of boys who are going to be really tough at county, and their girls are quite strong as well. Mill Creek has an incredible group of girls who are going to be tough to beat at county and state, and the one-two punch of Jake (Magahey) and Nick (Kalenik) on the boys side can never been ignored. They’re two of the best all-time, so they always have the potential to change the outcome of an event, especially in the relays.
“I was impressed by the speed of Parkview’s relays when we swam them in the dual meet, so they’re going to be in the mix, fighting for one of those top three spots. This could be one of the most competitive Gwinnett county meets in a long time, and there are fast swimmers at Peachtree Ride, Mountain View and Duluth who could really make things interesting and affect the outcome of the entire meet. There is a lot riding on each individual swim this year. Whoever stays focused all weekend will be victorious.”
The Brookwood boys, currently on a run of four straight state titles, won all three relays and broke two county records in two last year. They won with 1,036.5 points to finish ahead of Parkview (977) and North (909).
Brookwood’s girls, state champs the last two seasons, won by a pretty slim margin — 976-901 — over North at county last year. The Broncos were first in two girls relays in county-meet record times and got a pair of individual championships in the 200 individual medley and 100 freestyle from Lily Burke, a junior this season.
Parkview’s Abby McCulloh, also a junior, returns after winning the 200 and 500 free county titles in 2019. McCulloh and Burke shared Daily Post Swimmer of the Year honors as sophomores. Mountain View’s Sarah-Grace Thompson (100 backstroke) and Collins Hill’s Abigayle Wood (100 breaststroke) also are returning county champions from a year ago.
Magahey has dominated at the county meet the past two years, including 200 free and 100 butterfly titles last season. He broke his own county-meet record and his own all-time Gwinnett mark in the 200 free, then toppled the 100 fly meet and all-time county records. There is only one other returning boys county champion — Peachtree Ridge’s Evan McInerny in the 200 IM.
The county meet begins with girls diving finals Wednesday at Mountain Park Aquatic Center, followed by girls swimming prelims Thursday at West Gwinnett Aquatic Center and boys swimming prelims Friday at West Gwinnett. The boys diving competition is Saturday morning at Mountain Park, setting up the swimming finals Saturday at West Gwinnett. Finals begin at 5 p.m.