Women’s Cross Country Knocks Off Nation’s Number One

Members of the Girls Cross Country team race at the Jamboree 2 at Stoney Creek on September 24. The team is currently ranked eighth in the nation. PHOTO / CIE BROWN

Saturday, September 29, the Seaholm girls’ cross country beat the best teams in the state and some of the best in the country in the 5,000 meter Coaches Legends Classic at Meadow Park.  The victory put the team at number one in state and number eight in the nation.

The Maples beat their competition with a low score of 26 and a combined time 1:31:37.  Saline, who was ranked second in the state and sixth in the nation coming into the meet, came in a close second with 46 points and a time of 1:32:44.

Sophomore Audrey Belf led the team in third overall with a time of 17:52.20.  She was followed by four of her teammates all in the top ten.  Sophomore Rachel Dadamio (18:19.50), seniors Tess Wilberding (18:24.20), Aubrey Wilberding (18:25.90), and freshman Marissa Dobry (18:33.10) came in fifth, sixth, seventh, and tenth respectively.

“Six or seven of the top ranked teams in the state were there,” senior and two year captain Mallory Wilberding said.  “I think it was the competition that really got the team going, we had a 30 second average drop and our top five scoring girls were all under 18:33, which is unreal.”

This wasn’t just a huge win for the team, it was a big upset as well.

“It’s huge because we did very well,” head coach Jeff Devantier said.  “I think we surprised some people and I think we surprised ourselves.”

The National High School Cross Country Coaches Association ranked Saline the 6th best team in the nation and the second best in the state.  The same ranking put Seaholm as the 23rd best in the country and third in the state.  Grosse Pointe South was the number one ranked team in the entire country, but they placed a surprising 7th at the Coaches Classic.

Grosse Pointe South has an all-star lineup with some of the best runners in the country, including Hannah and Haley Mier.

Both Miers were rested during the Coaches Classic, but their absence doesn’t overshadow the statement that the Maples made saying that they’re here and ready to compete with the best of the best.  Perhaps there will be a family showdown between Grosse Pointe South’s Mier twins and Seaholm’s Wilberding triplets at this year’s state meet.

The teams met earlier this season at the Spartan Invite, where the most elite teams in the Midwest competed. Seaholm finished third behind the other two.

Since then, the Maples have recovered from a combination of injured and resting runners.  Two of the team’s strongest runners, Tess Wilberding and sophomore Julia Demko started the season on the injured reserve but recently came back to give the team even more speed.

The powerhouse schools will likely meet again at states where they will be competing for the top spot on the podium.

This most recent win adds to the team’s growing list.  The Maples took first place at the first two OAA Jamborees (meets between all eight teams of the OAA red division).

They went on to win both the large and small school divisions of the West Bloomfield Invitational.  Wednesday September 19, Seaholm beat cross town rivals Groves in convincing fashion while resting almost every upperclassman.

“We won two divisions of the West Bloomfield Invitational,” Devantier said, pointing to the two plaques in his office.  “We won in the big school race and in the small school race.  So, our first team ran the big division and our second team ran the smaller one and won it.”

So far, the team’s strongest asset has been their depth.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve had enough depth where we can move people in and out, rest people if we need to, which is going to make a whole lot of difference at the end of the year,” Devantier said

The underclassmen have made a huge difference in the team’s depth this year.  In fact, three of the top five runners are underclassmen.

“No one who was a varsity runner last year graduated and then we added some amazing freshmen,” Mallory Wilberding said.

The top runners of the of the season so far include freshman Dobry, sophomores Dadamio and Belf, and seniors Aubrey Wilberding and Allison Wegner.  But the team’s talent goes deep into their roster.

“Our top fifteen runners would be varsity runners on literally any other team in the country except for Grosse Point South and Saline,” Mallory Wilberding said.

The team is looking to continue their dominance over local competition and are poised to repeat league, county, and regional titles (the triple crown of high school cross country).  They are also hoping to take that momentum into the state competition.

“I think if we all run at our full potential by states, we could beat Grosse Pointe South,” said sophomore and current number one runner Audrey Belf.

Over the last four years, the team has almost tripled in size.  Along with their growth in numbers, came growth in strength.  The team has finished lower and lower in the top ten at states each year, and now have the opportunity to seize their greatest achievement and win it all.

“I think the best part has been just seeing how the sport has gained respect at our school and how girls just come in and find their place,” Mallory Wilberding said.

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