by Chris LingebachBy Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Say farewell to Britt McHenry, Washington, D.C., as she becomes the latest area sportscaster — joining Dan Hellie, Lindsay Czarniak and Sara Walsh — to be swept up from the nation’s capital by a national network.

Well, it’s not exactly goodbye.

McHenry will remain in D.C., where she’ll serve a much broader audience.

She’s departing local ABC television affiliate WJLA – effective March 17 – for ESPN, as its D.C.-based bureau reporter, the four-letter network announced on Wednesday. There, she’ll fulfill correspondent duties on ESPN programs such as SportsCenter, Outside the Lines and wherever else she’s needed.

McHenry’s six-and-a-half year run in D.C. began, under no certain terms, in 2008.

PHOTOS: Britt McHenry In-Studio

After completing her master’s degree at Northwestern – from the Medill School of Journalism, one of the leading J-Schools in the country (through which, she paid her own way) – McHenry found herself scratching for opportunity during a time in which budgets were getting crunched in newsrooms nationwide – apropos of the surrounding job market.

“It was a complete long shot for me to get hired anywhere at that time, given the recession,” McHenry told me Wednesday evening. “My news director at Channel 7, Bill Lord, gave me a shot (even though I was very green) and hired me as a community reporter for NewsChannel 8.”

The job, as she described, wasn’t at all that glamorous, nor did it yield the fanfare which may accompany her work today.

“I had to shoot and edit my own video, cover county council meetings, and struggled on a very modest salary,” she said. “But, I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to start my career in D.C.”

“I always wanted to do sports though, and after a year, I petitioned to cover Nats spring training, which conveniently was in my hometown, and it led to my position at Channel 7,” the Florida-native said.

So what does this jump to the big time really mean to you, Britt?

“It truly is a lifelong dream realized,” she explained.

“Once I figured out becoming the next Mia Hamm wasn’t exactly in the cards … I focused on my other passion, which is story-telling,” she said. “Even though there are a lot of great opportunities at different regional and upstart national networks, to me, ESPN was the gold standard.”

To answer the call to ESPN – with a job offer on the other end – that must have been something, right?

“My parents were the first people I told,” she said of learning the news. “And, actually Grant Paulsen was up there, as well. He’s young in this business too, and has always been someone I could relate to — plus he knows his movies (big movie fan here).”

While D.C. is no small market, gracing television sets in bars and households from coast to coast comes with its share of pressure.

“My biggest goal is to just contribute as much as I can to ESPN. It’s a huge honor to be hired, but it’s also a big challenge,” McHenry said. “I just want to soak up as much knowledge as possible and work on being the most versatile journalist I can be.”

“Women like Lindsay Czarniak, Sage Steele, Suzy Kolber … the ones who can really do it all — report, anchor, host…they’re all inspirations to me,” she said.

McHenry imagines herself in more of a Josina Anderson/Michelle Steel/Ed Werder role at ESPN, at first, offering it was Rachel Nichols (another D.C. success story!) from whom she drew her greatest inspiration.

[She] was always the female sports reporter I looked up to growing up,” McHenry said.

She also credits Christine Brennan (USA Today columnist), Steve Scully (C-SPAN Executive Producer) and Mike Wilbon (ESPN) for their mentorship throughout her career.

McHenry still has to undergo training, which, one would imagine is quite extensive, and projects to actually appear on ESPN sometime in April.

Until then, how about some bests and worsts from her time here in D.C.?

Favorite story:

“My favorite story, or moment rather, in DC sports was covering the Nats clinching the NL East. There was just so much energy that night at the Park. It transcended the game. The Nats were headed to the playoffs; a feat local fans hadn’t seen in, I believe, 79 years. It was definitely surreal.”

Least favorite story:

“My least favorite story to cover was probably the Albert Haynesworth saga. That’s when I had to shoot my own video, so chasing after Haynesworth at Redskins Park was less than ideal. The whole situation got a little tiresome for all of local media, I believe.

And of course, a special note from Britt to 106.7 The Fan’s morning show, The Junkies:

“The Junks are the real D.C. big time,” McHenry said. “Seriously though, they saw me on television and promoted me before anyone else in this city.”

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A few other choice tweets from her time in Washington (follow her on Twitter.)

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