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Seaholm girls end 2012 by claiming top spot in Division 1 cross country finals

Published November 14, 2012

» click to enlarge «
Seaholm’s girls team wrapped up a great season by winning the D-1 state championship. Pictured, coach Jeff Devantier stands in the back row with, from left, Danielle Bentzley, Julia Demko and Marissa Dobry. Front row, from left, Rachel DaDamio, Audrey Belf, Aubrey Wilberding and Tess Wilberding.

After watching them start, he had no doubt.

This was a team that had done everything it was supposed to.

Now, on the biggest stage and with the grandest prize on the line, the final touch was one run away.

So he stood at the starting line and watched his Birmingham Seaholm girls cross country team explode when the gun sounded.

He had no doubt.

“The way they started out was the way they started out in every race we’ve won this year,” coach Jeff Devantier said. “They went out to take control right away, and I felt like that’s what they did in the first half mile. This was their race.”

Jubilant as he was confident, Devantier made his way to the finish line.

It was just a matter of time now.

“But then the public address announcer kept talking about Grosse Pointe South and Saline (High), and how close they were,” Devantier said. “I was trying to figure out what the heck was going on.

How did those teams pass us?

What did I miss?”

Panic turned to understanding as his runners came into view.

“The announcer was saying ‘Saline,’ but I think he meant ‘Seaholm,’” Devantier said with a laugh. “I guess our uniforms are similar or whatever, but I was relieved.”

Then he was ecstatic.

Seaholm finished the Nov. 3 race at the Michigan International Speedway with 69 points, well in front of defending champion South, which ended with 88, and Saline, which took third with 101.

“I think we’re all still in a little bit of a fog. We’re kind of in disbelief this all happened,” Devantier added. “We had 40 to 45 girls on the team that showed up to watch our runners, tons of parents and fans. It was an incredible finish to a dream season.”

In the moment, his appreciation and shock were understandable.

But taking a step back and recalling the season as a whole, few could actually be surprised that Seaholm ended on top.

Four years ago, Devantier was in building mode. When the current group of seniors arrived, his roster maxed out at 18.

The next year, it grew to 29.

A year ago, he was floored when 49 runners showed up, only to welcome 52 this fall.

“And they were 52 girls with absolutely one goal in mind,” he said. “That was a state title.”

“Seeing how many girls came out was overwhelming,” said senior captain Mallory Wilder. “From day one, we had all these girls, and it was just one team. You could feel it.”

That became one of the Maples’ biggest strengths.

“The depth was huge,” Wilder said. “Our eighth through 14th girls could run varsity on most teams, and the competition we had with each other only made us better.”

It also could have threatened harmony, as Devantier explained.

Seniors, many of whom were key contributors the past couple of seasons, had to accept new, and less glamorous, roles. Many times, they were left off the score sheet.

“That was the hard part, because they all deserved to be part of this,” Devantier explained. “My top seven were picked on the top times — all year. It was a pretty clear-cut decision, but that didn’t make it easy.”

Wilder, a team captain who dreamed of running at the state finals and helping clinch a title, instead went to Brooklyn as a spectator and cheerleader for the girls who qualified to run.

“You always focus on individual and personal times in a sport like this, but the bigger picture with this season was always about the team aspect,” Wilder said. “Of course, I wanted to run. But my job was to support the girls that were representing our team.”

Aubrey Wilberding led Seaholm, placing third overall in the run with a time of 17 minutes, 55.9 seconds. She was followed by Tess Wilberding (10th, 18:16.4), Marissa Dobry (12th, 18:23.9), Rachel DaDamio (17th, 18:27.9), Audrey Belf (27th, 18:32.8), Julia Demko (82nd, 19:21.0) and Danielle Bentzley (103rd, 19:38.9).

“Our entire team was so strong all season,” Devantier said. “I don’t think the order of our top runners was ever the same.”

Which was impressive considering the wins Seaholm had — league, county and regional — leading up to the state finals.

What’s more impressive is just how good the girls may be next year.

Of the top seven who ran at the final, only two, Aubrey and Tess Wilberding, are seniors.

“We’re fired up,” Devantier said. “With the way this season ended, and with the girls that are going to be here in the future.”

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