The Upstate Eight changed its format for the conference cross championship races this year, but it was more of the same for Lake Park's Kaylee Flanagan and St. Charles East's Torree Scull.
Flanagan, the defending Class 3A state champion, ran away from the field Saturday at LeRoy Oakes in St. Charles to win in 16 minutes, 39.2 seconds.
Scull came in second nearly a minute behind in 17:32 in the first year the Upstate Eight has run both the River and Valley Divisions together.
But while all 14 teams ran, the meet was scored separately which left Scull as the best runner in the River and with her second conference championship in as many years.
"She's amazing," Scull said of Flanagan. "I ran my best time. Overall I felt pretty strong."
Scull started out in a pack of four runners but settled in and ran most of the race with Metea Valley's Kendall Cast eventually breaking free of Cast near the two-mile mark to finish seven seconds ahead of her.
After finishing second at the West Aurora Stampede last Saturday, Scull continued her momentum as she heads into regionals next week getting back to 100 percent.
"The last two weeks I've had my best workouts so far," Scull said. "I think that's helped a lot and given me more confidence and stuff."
While Scull won the River individual title, Geneva topped St. Charles North to win the team championship.
Freshman McKenzie Altmayer led the Vikings in fourth overall in 17:49.3, just ahead of St. Charles North's Ashley England in 17:49.6.
After a slow start to the year when the team battled injuries and didn't have a full lineup, Vikings coach Bob Thomson is excited to see his team peaking at the right time.
"This is what our focus is," Thomson said. "It's really the first step of our main focus which is to go to state. The conference championship is icing on the cake for what hopefully is going to be a successful remaining part of the season. The girls had a team goal at the beginning of the season to run for the conference championship. They were down on themselves early but we all knew the pieces weren't all together yet. It's just awesome it came together."
Thomson called his team's win with 28 points last Sunday on the Chicago Marathon course -- the second straight year Geneva has won it -- a "a huge builder, an awesome display." He's also not sure if there will be more young runners joining his lineup next week at regionals.
"I think they all came to run," Thomson said. "We're still a young squad, McKenzie (Williams) is our only senior. We're going to keep coming back. You are not going to get rid of us that easily."
Sophomore Brooke Nusser followed Altmayer in 17:52.8, junior Kathryn Adelman ran an 18:18, junior Sydney Geils 18:29 and sophomore Marin Leone 18:41.
"This (championship) is exciting for the girls," Thomson said. "To go to state four straight years with that talent we had, we were a little down last year but we still finished pretty strong and just missed it (state). We all knew this summer we had to work to this goal."
St. Charles North's Kaylee Wessel and Nina Olshever stayed close together and finished in 15th and 17th for the runner-up North Stars.
Sarah Hill missed all-conference (top 24) by one spot for St. Charles East with her time of 18:44.
Batavia put a pair of runners in the top 10 with sophomore Lexi Slome ninth in 18:00 and freshman Dakota Roman 10th at 18:07. Gracie Ball also earned all-conference honors in 23rd.
Valley Division: Flanagan said a recent loss at the Wheaton North Falcon Classic flight meet might have been the best thing to happen to her.
"That just gave me momentum to keep going and not give up and go from that, just keep on pushing as hard as I can," Flanagan said. "It was a good mental thing to have that happen. It was good to have a loss under my belt and no pressure going into these kinds of meets. As long as I keep growing from it, that's the most important thing."
Flanagan had spectators from all schools cheering for her as she flew into the chute with no other runners in view. It was her first time running the LeRoy Oakes course and she quickly broke free from the field after finishing the opening hill.
"Everybody was right with me going up the hill," Flanagan said. "That was a tough first 800. Everyone out here is giving their all. I'm in a zone. You just run your own race, that was my plan. It (the course) was really fun, you don't repeat anything. It was a new experience and was really fun."
Lake Park also won the Valley team title over runner-up Neuqua Valley. Six Lancers made all-conference: Flanagan, Sam Monatalbano (sixth), Rachel Garippo (eighth), Nicole Alfano (13th), Brianne Murphy (19th) and Ruth Garippo (20th).
"That's exciting," Flanagan said. "That's something to strive for next week to continue the momentum from that."
Other area all-conference runners were: Cast, third; Waubonsie Valley's Ashley Brunner, 11th and Allison Wilson, 21st; Neuqua Valley's Julia Pena, 14th and Claire Costelloe, 16th; and Bartlett's Nicole Watkins, 22nd.