In their past two regular season meets, the Northern cross-country duo of Keely Murphy and Katie Ogden had worked together to finish one-two.
So, despite the larger and deeper field at the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference championships on Wednesday at Oak Ridge Park in Hughesville, they saw no reason to change their strategy.
Murphy, who finished third a year ago, won the girls' individual title with a time of 18 minutes 39 seconds, and Ogden took second.
Murphy stayed behind the lead pack for about a mile, but once the course moved into the woods, where the runners were protected from the cold wind, she made her move to the front. Ogden fell in behind her and kept pace, and they both finished strong.
"It was a good pace, and I felt really good," said Murphy. "We've pushed each other all year -- in practice and in the meets."
Westlake senior Sean Guy won the boys' individual title with a time of 16:47. Guy said that last year he was disappointed in his performance even though Westlake won the regional title.
This year, he worked hard in the offseason and laid out a plan that included skipping some regular season meets in preparation for the season's final stretch.
The result Wednesday was his best time of the year -- and plenty of reason to be optimistic heading into districts and states.
"My strategy helped a lot, because I'm not as tired toward the end of the year," Guy said. "I still have that strength that I need."
Leonardtown, meantime, didn't win an individual championship but did complete an impressive sweep of both the boys' and girls' team titles. It was the culmination of an undefeated regular season for both teams, which finished 15-0 overall and 13-0 in the SMAC.
"It's an awesome day for us," said Leonardtown Coach Jamie Copsey. "This is what we worked toward, to be SMAC champions, and I'm really proud of how we ran."
Leonardtown moved up from 3A to 4A this year, and Copsey said he hoped the strong finish was a sign that the team is ready for the upgrade in competition in the coming weeks.
Junior Brandon Demers finished third to pace a Raiders squad that placed five runners in the top 11. Westlake took second, Northern third.
Demers said Leonardtown runners concentrated toward the end of the season on tightening their pack and encouraging each other throughout the race.
"We started the year pretty spread out," Demers said. "But through the season, we've steadily gotten closer and closer. Now, I think we're where we need to be."
In a field of 71 runners, the Leonardtown girls placed all seven of their runners in the top 22 to best second-place Huntingtown. Sophomore Katlyn Dillow, last year's champion, led the Raiders with a third-place finish.
"They've all worked so hard to get where they are," said Copsey. "They've earned their place as SMAC champions."