Girls cross country isn't generally considered a prestige sport, but don't mention that at Fort Hunt High School.

"When you run cross country at Fort Hunt it means something," says Coach Andy Tisinger. "You get a whole sense of something important happening. I don't believe it's a minor sport here."

Four of the area's top long-distance runners compete for Fort Hunt: seniors Sue Miley, Chanley Bergman and Robin Roughton and junior Margaret Harned.

"The girls should take all the credit for the success of the program. I just offered it," Tisinger continued. "For the program to get the credit it deserves the girls have to perform well."

"Everyone in the school is interested," Harned said. "Last year we won the outdoor state championship and a lot of people came to the meet. And when we got back we were congratulated by a lot of students."

Fort Hunt also won this fall's Judges Classic by a 22-point margin. Bergman finished first with a time of 15:56; Miley was third, Harned fifth and Roughton eighth.

The four runners work hard on their studies as well as their sport. The lowest grade point average of the four is a 3.5 on a 4.0 system.

On the track the girls go through different types of training. During the summer they work on endurance. During the season, they concentrate on building up speed.

"During the summer we basically run long mileage. And before the season starts we take a trip to the Shenandoah Valley, where we run 15 miles a day," Roughton explained. "During the season we run at short intervals, twice a week. That's where you run full blast for a mile then jog a mile."

Two of the girls, Roughton and Bergman, transferred from other Virginia schools.

"I transferred from Charlottesville," Bergman said. "And it just doesn't compare. I had to compete against boys and we only had two invitationals."

"There's a lot more competition here and I think I am going to improve from it," Bergman said. "Now every time I step on the track I have to fight for it. I like running here, the program is excellent and the coach is good."

Roughton is a transfer from Mount Vernon.

"It helps competing against the best," Miley said. "We help one another and we try to encourage each other. There's not a lot of competition between us."

Despite the girls' common interest in the sport, their introductions to running came in a variety of ways.

Harned just began competing last year and is now the No. 1 two-miler in the area.

"I used to be a swimmer but some of my friends got me started on track and it has been a great experience," Harned said.

"I started because I wanted to lose weight," Miley said.

"I got involved because I was tired of being one of those wallflower people," explained Bergman, the team captain and leader.

Roughton started running in the sixth grade under the coaching of her father.

"Both my mother and father run," Roughton said. "Two years ago they both ran in the Boston Marathon.My mother finished in the top 30 (for women)."