When describing his sophomore runner McKenzie Altmayer, Geneva coach Bob Thomson said, "you'll never see her without a smile on her face."
Altmayer had even more reason to smile after an amazing finish Saturday at the Upstate Eight Conference girls cross country meet Saturday at Leroy Oakes in St. Charles.
Altmayer passed four runners in the very last part of the race including the last two in her final few strides to win the conference title in 17:50.4.
St. Charles North's Ashley England came in second at 17:51.4 and Metea Valley's Kendall Cast third at 17:51.9 -- the top three runners within 1.5 seconds of each other.
"I am not really a sprinter but I always give it my all because every coach I have tells us to finish strong," said Altmayer, whose victory Saturday was her first.
When Altmayer neared the old school house close to the finish line, she said her teammates watching the race provided the motivation she needed.
"I heard the team yelling for me because we really want to win conference," Altmayer said. "I just figured I have to help my team as much as I could."
Altmayer missed Geneva's race on this course two weeks ago at the St. Charles North Invitational with a variety of ailments including problems with her knee and hamstring.
She looked much closer to full strength Saturday.
"She ran really well," Thomson said. "Her knee has been bothering her but looked good today. We're happy with that. She moved up nicely."
Geneva won the River Division with 34 points, 32 ahead of second-place St. Charles East.
The Vikings crossed the finish line in nice packs -- Emma McSpadden, Kathryn Adelman and Brooke Nusser were sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively, while freshmen Gabrielle Thomson and Emma Ehrhardt were 12th and 13th.
"I'm happy to see Brooke back up there," Thomson said. "They ran well. Gabby ran well, Kathryn has been consistent and Emma too. It's not like one person keeps being our No. 1 all the time. There has been a lot of rotation among our top runners. That's a good thing. Somebody can't say go after their No. 1 runner because it's different every week."
St. Charles East edged St. Charles North for the second spot in the team standings, 66-74.
The Saints put all seven of their runners in the top 21 paced by Torree Scull (9th, 18:30), Corrin Adams (10th, 18:33), Anastasia Honea (14th, 18:48), Lauren Towne (15th, 18:49) and Jeslaine Thompson (18th, 18:54).
As she has all season, England led the way for the North Stars. Nina Olshever took 11th and Kaylee Wessel 17th.
Batavia scored 87 points to take fourth. Sophomore Dakota Roman and junior Miranda Rea led Batavia in fourth and fifth, respectively with times of 18:05 and 18:09.
Valley Division: Neuqua Valley won the team race going away with 33 points to beat Metea Valley (57), West Chicago (65) and the rest of the seven-team field.
Claire Costelloe finished second in 17:55 and teammate Julia Pena 17:56 to take second and third for the Wildcats.
Cast pulled into the lead about the mile mark and ran alone in front for most of the race until the furious kick from Altmayer.
England also passed Cast in the final few yards.
"Those girls just caught me," Cast said. "I could hear the people cheering. I tried to pick it up but they just passed me. They ran really well."