Loudoun County High School was the fourth-best girls cross-country team in Group AA Saturday. It was its highest finish at the state championships under Coach Courtney Campbell. And the Raiders were upset.

This, Campbell said, says a lot about how far the program has come in her 13 years at the Leesburg school.

Loudoun County (101 points) missed earning one of the trophies--which go to the top three teams--after being edged by third-place Jefferson Forest (93) at Great Meadow in The Plains.

"Before we were just happy to be in the top half of districts," said Campbell, whose girls finished fifth last fall in their first state appearance in 12 years.

Said junior Melissa Caudill: "For our cross-country program, we had never gotten a trophy at states, and we wanted to be the first."

As for her individual performance, Caudill was quite pleased.

"I was hoping for top 15, and getting fifth was pretty amazing," said Caudill, who capped a strong postseason by being the fastest local finisher in 19 minutes 28.90 seconds; she placed 25th last season. "I still can't believe it. My time improved 49 seconds, and I improved 20 places so it was pretty significant."

Senior Jennifer Lapetoda was sixth, in 19:33.90.

"You never know coming into a meet how you are actually going to do," Lapetoda said. "I kind of wanted to have fun with my last race, and I ran well, and sixth in the state is not bad. I'm really happy how I did."

But she wasn't happy about how the team did, calling the finish "heartbreaking."

"I would have rather come in 10th place [as an individual] and gotten a trophy," she said. "That was real important to us. When you are in fourth place and eight points behind [third], it is kind of sad."

The AA meet marked the last in-state high school competition for Lapetoda and fellow senior Shannon Runge, who Campbell credits with turning around the Loudoun County program when they were freshmen.

"Jennifer's class is the one that started taking it seriously, and the influence of Jennifer and Shannon rubbed off on everyone," Campbell said. They instilled "the idea of wanting to win, [rather] than cross-country being a social thing."

The highest local boys finisher was Potomac Falls senior Jeff Maynard, who placed 14th, in 16:30.90. Loudoun Valley sophomore Jonathan Tew just missed being named all-state after finishing 16th in 16:37.60; the top 15 runners Saturday received those honors.

Notes: Potomac Falls freshman Christy Dannenberg ended her season on a high note, placing 10th overall, in 19:44.80. . . . The season is not done for the Loudoun County cross-country team just yet, with Lapetoda and Runge competing in the Foot Locker South Regional on Nov. 27 in Charlotte. Raider sophomore David Bolton will be running the sophomore race there, and Caudill will be participating in the junior race.

CAPTION: Potomac Falls's Jeff Maynard winds up highest local boys finisher in Group AA meet, placing 14th in 16:30.90. His time earned him all-state recognition.