Like many cross-country teams, the Murrieta Valley High girls' squad has not run its top seven runners in a meet this season.
But unlike most teams, the Nighthawks have managed to perform at a high level despite being short-handed.
That was evident Saturday in the Woodbridge Invitational at Irvine Woodbridge High when Murrieta Valley beat Chino Hills Ayala, 84-103, to win the Division I title.
Green Valley (Nev.) was third with 105 points, followed by Canyon Country Canyon (147) and Santa Ana Mater Dei (150).
Ayala, the No. 3-ranked team in the Southern Section Division I poll, defeated No. 4 Murrieta Valley, 54-59, in the Bronco Invitational at Prado Park in Chino on Sept. 8. But the Nighthawks avenged that defeat Saturday, despite running without No. 3 runner Elaine Woodward, who was battling shin splints.
"This is a big win for us," sophomore Liza Pasciuto said. "We're really happy. [Rachael Corrington] didn't run for us last week, but she was our number three runner today. She ran great."