Robert Dannenberg noticed how fast daughters Katy and Christy were years ago. Now the rest of the Group AA Northwestern District is finding out.

In only their first season of cross-country, the Dannenberg sisters have helped make the Potomac Falls High School girls one of the top teams this fall.

At the Bull Run Invitational at Hereford High School on Sept. 25, Christy, a freshman, placed third in 21 minutes 2 seconds, and Katy, a sophomore, finished 13th in 22:01--helping the Panthers finish second overall in the small school girls race.

"I used to like to train with them when I was faster," said Robert Dannenberg, who began running with Katy about four years ago and with Christy three years ago. "Now they don't run ahead of me anymore--they run way ahead of me."

In mid-September, they ran way ahead of almost everyone, as the Panthers won the Frank Keyser meet, their first invitational girls team title in the three-year history of the Sterling school. Christy placed second (19:08.7), and Katy finished sixth (19:58.4).

(Junior Meaghan Null placed 14th at the meet in Boonsboro, Md., at 20:47.6.)

"Last year, we got a solid pack but we could not compete with AAA schools . . .," said Potomac Falls Coach Brian Blubaugh, citing the lack of a workhorse. "This year, the pack is even stronger, and we added the Dannenberg sisters, and that has helped a lot."

It could have been different: Katy Dannenberg was not a member of the school's cross-country team last year because she was competing in volleyball. That changed when the Panthers dropped to Group AA, and volleyball moved to the winter.

"Track really started me thinking about [cross-country]," said Dannenberg, who runs outdoors in the spring. "I really had run in track, and I liked the people, and I liked to run."

The duo has impressed from almost Day One; Christy won the individual girls title and Katy placed sixth as Potomac Falls finished runner-up Sept. 11 at the Handley Invitational--the team's second competitive outing of the season.

"I did not think I would be able to get first," Christy Dannenberg said. "I thought I would be behind Katy. . . . I'm really excited. I think it is a great team."

Fast-Rising Freshman

Christy Dannenberg is not the only freshman in the AA Northwestern District to make an impact this season.

Audrey Pietrzyk also has started out strong, running No. 1 for Broad Run in the team's first two races. Pietrzyk finished 10th in the seeded race at the Bull Run Invitational (20:50) and sixth at the James Wood Invitational.

Junior Tamara Buckman placed 18th (21:44) at Hereford and 13th at James Wood.

The Spartans girls team placed sixth overall at Hereford--the highest finish of any Virginia team in the seeded races.

"Basically we have the core of last year's team coming back," Broad Run Coach Mike Fitzgerald said. "Adding Audrey has been outstanding because she has been running well."

Raiders Are Strong Afoot

After recording the highest finish (fifth) at the AAA state championships in school history, Loudoun County looks strong again this fall.

Senior Jennifer Lapetoda placed fourth at the James Wood Invitational and third at the Handley Invitational (20:26). Junior Melissa Caudill also has looked impressive, placing fifth at James Wood and at Handley (20:44).

"Everybody is running well," said Raiders Coach Courtney Campbell, whose girls team placed third overall at both meets. "We are trying to figure who our fourth through seventh runners are going to be, which is a good problem to have."