GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY STATE FINALS: Belf, Seaholm regain top honors in D-1
BROOKLYN, Mich. — Birmingham Seaholm is back on top again.
The Maples stood tall Saturday, winning their second Division 1 state title in three years with an impressive 88 points at Michigan Speedway.
Seaholm, fourth at state last season due to significant injuries, had surrendered their No. 1 ranking they held all year to Traverse City Central last week, even though the Maples ran the gauntlet with an undefeated season entering the finals.
That streak continued today, as Seaholm proved it belonged at the top with a dominating effort on the season’s final day, winning by 27 points. It marked the Maples fourth straight top-five finish.
“This senior class…I can’t say enough about them,” noted veteran Seaholm coach Jeff DeVantier. “I don’t think they lost a league, county or regional title in four years and we won our second state title in three years today. In the past four years, we’ve had two fourth-place finishes and won two state titles. That’s an incredible run.”
Traverse City Central was second with 115 points, defending champion Northville claimed third (135), Milford was fourth (169) and Saline fifth (230).
Seaholm’s Audrey Belf and Rachel DaDamio took the first two spots, as Belf won her second straight crown in 17:19.0 with DaDamio fending off Macomb L’Anse Creuse North freshman Kareena Duffey down the stretch.
DaDamio finished in 17:29.4 and Duffey crossed the line in 17:33.1.
Julia Demko finished 20th and also earned All-State honors for Seaholm. Audrey Ladd (40th) and Mary Sanders (54th) aided Seaholm’s winning effort.
“I felt (strong) out there today, even with the wind,” smiled Belf. “I was just running for my team. It’s awesome that we took the top two spot. Rachel ran great down the stretch to get second. I turned around to watch that finish. They wanted me to keep going down the chute, but I wanted to see the finish. Our whole team ran great today. Our goal was to win it this year and we were e the 18-minute barrier despite the to do it.”
Eight runners broke the 18-minute barrier, even against the odds of the unfavorable conditions. Port Huron’s Rachel Bonner (17:54.4) and Traverse City Central’s Sielle Kearney (17:57.7) also finished in the top five.
DIVISION 2: Grand Rapids Christian rolled to a convincing victory, winning the Division 2 crown with 87 points. Otsego was way back in second with 145 points, and DeWitt (156), St. Joseph (186) and East Grand Rapids (200) also cracked the top five in the 27-school field.
Individually, St. Johns Karrigan Smith pulled out a victory by crossing the line in 18:11.2, just ahead of Cedar Springs’ Kenzie Weiler (18:13.5).
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern’s Morgan Posthuma (18:24.4), Otsego’s Megan Aalberts (18:34.5) and Spring Lake’s Erin O’Keefe (18:35.7) also finished amongst the leaders.
“I gave it everything I had (down the stretch) and I was able to win,” smiled Smith after winning her first state title. “To win in these (conditions) and against so many good runners…it’s an amazing feeling.”
DIVISION 3: Traverse City St. Francis’ Holly Bullough proved that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Set back some 75 yards at the two-mile marker, she passed the leaders, including Charlevoix’s Amber Way inside the final 10 meters, to win the state crown.
Bullough won in 17:51.3, while Way was second in 17:51.3.
“I just gave it everything I had,” said Bullough. “I passed he second-place girl and I kept pushing myself. Then I realized that I may have a shot at (Way). I was able to pass her (down the stretch). We’ve raced each other before. I beat her at Ellsworth (Invitational).
“Last year my team was in Division 4 and this year we are in Division 3. I like the competition a lot more,” added Bullough, who was third last year in D-4. “There’s a lot more runners to push each other.”
Ranked No. 1 throughout the year, Ithaca put the finishing touches on a fine season with 147 points, 11 ahead of defending champion and fourth-ranked Shepherd (158). Second-ranked Manistee (163), Jackson Lumen Christi (164) and Hart (177) followed suit.
Ithaca’s top runner, Courtney Allen, finished 12th. The Yellowjackets had five finishers in the top 65.
Manistee’s Annie Fuller claimed third (18:15.7), while Allison Vroon of Holland Black River Academy was fourth (18:17.0) and defending champion Gina Patterson of Macomb Lutheran North placed fifth (18:29.6).
DIVISION 4: Beal City pulled rank to defend its state title and provide the rare sweep, as the Aggies’ boys team also captured some championship hardware.
Ranked third going in, Beal City captured its second state title with 94 points, landing five runners in the top 65.
Top-ranked Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep was second with 108 points, while Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart (130), Harbor Springs (156) and Bear Lake-Onekma Unified was fifth (180).
Emily Steffke (fifth), Hannah Steffk (sixth) and Rowan Fitzpatrick (26th) led the victorious Aggies.
Ava Strenge of Battle Creek St. Phillip Catholic Central was a surprise winner, pulling away down the stretch to win in 18:54.5. Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart’s Alexis McConnell was second (18:58.1), Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep’s Mary Ankenbauer was third (18:58.6) and North Muskegon’s Avery Lowe crossed the line fourth (19:14.2).
“I didn’t expect to win. I was hoping to get into the top 10,” admitted Strenge, a sophomore who went back-and forth with the leaders before pulling ahead in the final 400 meters. “Once we got down to the last mile and I was right up there, I felt I could win if I just finished strong.”