US#1 Birmingham Seaholm HS, MI girls declare "We are in no one's shadow!"

US#1 Birmingham Seaholm HS, MI girls declare "We are in no one's shadow!"!nhsca-national-champions/c1iw7


By David Taylor,

For the girls out of Birmingham Seaholm, Michigan the season ends at the state meet where they defeated then US#1 Grosse Pointe South and US#12 Saline. State high school association rules prohibit their postseason competition in any capacity even if as a club team. Garnering a Co-US#1 National Ranking, Head Coach Jeff Devantier shares the lengths the girls went to be able to go and face the 6 time defending NXN Champion Fayetteville Manlius, New York.

We were ready to go to NXN. We signed up and Nike contacted us stating they couldn't let us compete without a letter from our state association. So we contacted our Athletic Director about competing and research was done by other coaches to assist as well. We just thought that if we were a club and I was not involved, that if it was parent driven if would be ok, just like with other states. So we requested the letter from the MHSAA.”-Coach Devantier

“However, the closer to the regional we got the state association still hadn’t notified us so we contacted Nike directly. They had lawyers involved at this point and refused to allow the girls to compete as a team so that they wouldn’t lose eligibility by state penalization. They were instructed that they could however compete as individuals. We never got the letter from the state association and the girls refused to run as individuals, they were a team and wanted to show their best as a team.”-Coach Devantier

With over 25 years of great lake cross country coaching experience Coach Devantier has seen national champion teams and individuals before. Runners and teams like Dathan Ritzenhein, Megan Goethels, the 2006 Dexter boys, the 2000 Rockford girls and many others all represented Michigan well nationally and in rankings. Coach Devantier understands what it takes and is very clear about how his girls would have performed at the NXN regional meet:

“We would have put 5 runners in before Carmel Indiana’s number 2 runner, no question.”-Coach Devantier. This shouldn’t seem a surprise as they had already toppled former US#1 Grosse Pointe South who featured the greatest top 4 in US History, a team who the previous spring had won the National Championship for the Distance Medley and the 4x800 meter relay, an event they also set the National Record in during the season. Carmel would go on to place 1st at the Midwest NXN Regional and place 3rd at the Nike Cross National event. The Birmingham Seaholm girls were not in the shadows of their instate Nationally Renown rivals anymore and refused to accept the shadow history had placed on the 2006 Dexter boys, who just prior to 2006 NXN were US#3 and following the event, simply by not being able to compete were left out of the Harrier National Rankings all together. If not for the NHSCA rankings they would not have been remembered as a National Championship team.

The story of Birmingham Seaholm’s championship run began in the spring of 2012. The girls of Grosse Pointe South Michigan had hit the national running scene by setting the 4x800 meter national record. However, what most people don’t realize is that the team who finished second on that national record day, Birmingham Seaholm, also ran a historic mark but as is the case when records are set they were overshadowed in the moment.

Following that event head coach Jeff Devantier gathered his girls and asked them if they wanted to be in Grosse Pointe’s shadow again to which they replied “no” and then went to work. They would finish the season with amazing track underclassman performances and knew the fall of 2012 could be amazing.

Top runners for the Birmingham Seaholm 2012 team
(track bests are in paranthesis):
Aubrey Wilberding (Senior): 4th at the State XC Meet (2:18 800 meters)
Tess Wilberding (Senior): 12th at the State XC Meet (5:08 mile, 10:56 two mile)
Marissa Doubry (Freshman) 15th at State XC Meet
Rachel Dadamio (Sophomore) 17th at State XC Meet (2:14 800 meters)
Audrey Belf (Sophomore) 27th at State XC Meet (5:10 mile, 11:06 two mile *as Frosh!)
*the difference between 17th place and 27th place at the state meet was 5 seconds
Julia Demko (Sophomore): (5:17 mile, 11:14 two mile *as a Frosh!)
Danielle Dentzley (Junior): (5:17 mile)

Despite the amazing progress that they would make over the summer setbacks occurred when 2 of their triplet varsity runners would come down with a sickness and another runner would become injured. One would end up with mono and the other prolonged health issues. Coach Devantier thought back to the previous season’s state cross country meet where a great season seemed lost in the strange occurrences of that state race. His top runner was knocked down in the first 400 meters, hitting her head hard upon the ground, puking shortly and than finishing the race despite a severe concussion. The girls would finish 4th as a team and yet knew they were far better than that if things would have just gone their way.

You learn a lot about Michigan cross country and its competitiveness, especially in the Oakland County area where the Seaholm girl’s train and compete simply by looking at the last 10 years of national runners it has produced. All-Americans like Erin Finn, Katie Boyles, Megan Goethels are just a few state and national champions to come from this remarkable area. So when slight margins don’t fall your way you are left wondering how good you really are despite the place you finish.

For the first half of the 2012 fall campaign Birmingham Seaholm competed without 3 of their top 5 varsity runners and yet were good enough to carry a top 15 national ranking despite competitive losses to other top 10 national juggernauts Grosse Pointe South and defending state champion Saline. At the Michigan State Invitational, with over 10,000 competitors, the shorthanded Seaholm girls had enough depth to top all teams except those two and realizing where they would be at full strength they began dreaming and talking about winning.

Coach Devantier states, “I started looking back at prior state meets, and knew we had 4 girls, that if healthy, were pretty historical and if we could find 1 more than we would have a shot. So as a team we began focusing on building our depth and talking about what could happen when we are all back, to keep them believing it would happen”

Shortly thereafter the Seaholm girls were healthy and traveled to the Coaching Legends Classic to face down then US#1 Grosse Pointe South and top 10 Nationally Ranked Saline girls. As they believed they achieved and they dominated both teams in shocking manner. Following that performance the coach states “We realized Grosse Pointe had two runners out, but we won by such a large margin that even if we gave them the top 2 places in the meet we still won, so we knew that we could do this and finish with a state title or more, it was a huge boost to the girls confidence when we actually realized we were a national program.”-Coach Devantier

They had in fact achieved the recognition they deserved a US#7 ranking following that performance. Going into the state meet we knew at XCNATION that it would be a mini-national championship, as one race would feature the US#1, US#7, and US#12 at that point in time. This would be the most competitive state race in US History.

“The week prior to the state meet we had a lot of fun, these girls have a lot of experience at state meets as well as overcoming adversity, and in that week I had never seen them have more fun or be more focused. Within 2 days of the state meet things changed and they got very serious and the talk was all about winning that meet regardless if the top team in the nation was running”-Coach Devantier

“At the race, within the first half mile they manned up, literally, runner for runner on Grosse Pointe South and I knew we had a shot, that they were serious and ready; but our venue is not spectator friendly so as a coach you head over to the finish line and you listen to the announcer and you have to trust your girls will get the job done. The problem was that the announcer got us confused with Saline, so I had the longest 15 minutes of my life.”-Coach Devantier

When they came to the finishline it would turn out that for every Grosse Pointe South girl there was a Seaholm girl so no one knew for sure what the outcome would be, except that it would be close once individuals were removed from scoring.

“It took 20 minutes before they posted the results and you have to remember we took over 40 team members so when we found out it was pandemonium. You could hear the girls screaming and see them jumping, in shock and disbelief. It was so much fun because of all the seniors had endured and overcome; we had 16 seniors who had been with the team for so long”-Coach Devantier

Following that event the Birmingham Seaholm girls were propelled to the top slot with a perfect computer score of 1.000, this is a score that did not include strength of schedule performance metrics, which are not added until after NXN. The Grosse Pointe South girls dropped only to US#3 with Saline moving up to US#9.

“The next morning I woke up and checked my email and had a letter notifying us that we were the US#1. I sat back into the chair and read it to my wife. Then I text it to the team captain. Not too shortly after the girls were all over the site looking at states, studying history, seeing where they stood historically. Then it spread through the boys, parents and everyone knew.”-Coach Devantier

For Birmingham Seaholm they had moved out of the shadows of the magnificent Grosse Pointe South and Saline girls and in doing so stepped into the history books as the greatest in Michigan history and possibly one of the best all time nationally. Certainly their state meet was the single most competitive for any state in over 50 years with only the mid 2000s New York meet even capable of achieving comparison.

Despite the inability to compete at the NXN event, when the final strength of schedule scores were factored in, as expected, the Birmingham Seaholm girls statistically tied for a share of the National High School Coaches Association Girls Team Championship.

“We have great recognition in the community and have been growing in strength the last 15 years. Heck, out of the last 17 years we have been to state 15 times. The kids are seeing that regardless of how competitive our county and state is, we are also nationally competitive. They are already talking about putting in the work to repeat as state champions next year”-Coach Devantier

Given that Birmingham Seaholm return 5 of 7 varsity runners off a national championship squad and have to compete against current US#5 Saline who also returns all of its varsity runners, the 2013 Girls National Championship may very well be decided at the Michigan State Championships.