The Ventura High girls' cross-country team proved its victory in the Southern Section finals was no fluke by winning the Division I title in the state championships Saturday at Woodward Park.
Ventura defeated previously unbeaten Murrieta Valley in the Southern Section championships at Mt. San Antonio College on Nov. 22, and the Cougars turned back the defending state-champion Nighthawks again with a 98-122 victory in the rematch.
Ventura, ranked No. 14 in the nation by Harrier magazine, had five girls who finished ahead of No. 17-ranked Murrieta Valley's No. 3 runner in a race in which Southern Section teams swept the top seven places.
Murrieta Valley senior Liza Pasciuto was second in 17:39 over the 5,000-meter course, but Ventura didn't lose much ground in the team scoring because the Cougars' top finisher, senior Oriana Campbell, finished fourth in 18:10.
"Basically the senior girls who have been working hard for four years came through," Ventura Coach Bill Tokar said. "They're the ones who brought this group through ... and changed the attitude from being happy just to be [in the state meet] to having the drive to want to step up this year."
Ventura was 15th in the state Division II meet in 2000 and 13th in 2001. The Cougars were second to Hesperia Sultana last year with two juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen among their top seven.
The Cougars won this year despite being without sophomore Emily Spiker. Ventura's top finisher in the state meet last year, Spiker did not compete in the final three meets this season because of tendinitis in her knees. Southern Section runners won two other girls' championships.
Oak Park won its third consecutive Division IV title with a 58-167 victory over Felton San Lorenzo Valley in team competition, and sophomore Tani Brown of Los Angeles Brentwood won the Division V race in 19:08.
Pleasant Hill College Park and Sultana, the ninth- and 10th-ranked teams in the nation, tied for first with 73 points in the Division II team standings, but College Park was declared the winner because its No. 6 runner finished 44th while Sultana's placed 71st.
Sultana's top finisher was senior Kelsey Delagardelle, who placed ninth in 18:00.