The best symbol of Washington-Lee's success at the AAA National District cross-country championship meet last Thursday was the fifth-place peformance of Sarah Weber.
On Burke Lake Park's 2.98-mile course, Weber ran a time of 20 minutes 24 seconds as the Generals cruised to their second consecutive district title. On Sept. 11 on the same course, Weber had finished 36th in the Monroe Parker Invitational's junior varsity race with a time of 22:54.
"To drop two and a half minutes since Sept. 11 is just amazing," Washington-Lee Coach Bill Findler said. "She just kept working hard. And the thing about cross-country is that if you keep working hard, you're going to get better."
The Generals had four of the top five finishers, including individual champion Kallie Sims, to capture the title with 29 points. Meantime, the boys' top five finished third, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth, respectively, as the Generals won with 27 points.
The boys' district title is the Arlington school's first district championship in at least 20 years, Findler said. The girls had never won a district title before last season.
Washington-Lee qualified for the AAA Northern Region championship, which will be held today at Burke Lake Park.
All of the region's district championship meets were held last week. The top four teams from each of the region's four districts and the top 15 individuals in each race qualified for the region meet.
Washington-Lee lost its top four female runners from last year's team, which eventually went on to have one of the area's best 4x800-meter relays, but the new runners have taken over nicely.
"We still came back and won the district, so I'm very pleased," Findler said.
In the individual competition, the girls' favorite is Hayfield's Melissa Dewey, who has dominated most of the state competition this year. Dewey ran a time of 16:42 at Burke Lake on Thursday at the Patriot District championship, the third fastest time on the course and the fastest there since 1985.
The top boys this season have been Chantilly junior Brad Siragusa and Lee senior Dawit Legesse, who have been neck and neck on the course all season.
Jefferson's boys and Oakton's girls have been among the best teams in the state all season and could be contenders for a state title.
For Washington-Lee, one of the smaller schools in the Northern Region, the goals are still modest. Sims, a junior, has a good shot at finishing in the top 15, which would qualify her for the Virginia AAA Championship on Nov. 13 at Great Meadow in The Plains.
Findler hopes the boys' team can crack the top eight. Six of the Generals' seven male runners last Thursday decreased their Monroe Parker times by more than a minute.
"I think we can keep improving and possibly by next year have a chance at qualifying for states," Findler said.