The Birmingham Seaholm girls entered Beverly Park in waves Wednesday morning, and there was added anticipation as they gathered around the picnic tables.
About 50 girls were there for the opening of cross-country practice, and among them were, they believed, the makings of a state championship team.
“We’re all really excited about it and, we know the possibilities,” senior Audrey Belf said. “We’ve all been training really hard this summer, so I think we’re going to have a successful season.”
But there was something else that made Belf’s eyes light up: Bling is in!
The Michigan High School Athletic Association has lifted the ban on wearing jewelry during meets. Finally, Belf will be able to wear two earrings in each ear — not to mention chains.
“That’s definitely a bonus,” she said, laughing. “I’m not about the chain thing, I’ll probably just wear earrings.”
Whatever Belf wears, other runners will have a good view of the back of it because she is the defending Division 1 individual state champ.
A year ago, Seaholm placed fourth in the team standings, and it returns several veterans who performed well at the state meet.
Although eighth-place finisher Marissa Dobry moved to Oregon with her family, the Maples will have senior Rachel Dadamio, who placed 20th two years ago before suffering an impact stress fracture last year and missing the last half of the season.
“Rachel’s a very good runner,” said coach Jeff Devantier, who coached Seaholm to the team title two years ago. “If she’s healthy, she will definitely be in the mix at the front of the pack at the state meet.”
Until then, it will be up to Dadamio to push Belf and make the practices competitive and beneficial to the entire team.
“We definitely push each other,” Dadamio said. “She inspires me to work harder; I do the same for her. It’s kind of a cool dynamic being a senior. It’s my last year, so I’m looking to do as much as possible.”
So is Belf, who already has accomplished much. She followed up her cross-country state title by winning the Division 1 3,200-meter title last spring.
From there she placed fifth in the Adidas Dream Mile and was fourth in the Brooks PR 2-mile. She then shocked everyone by winning the Junior Nationals 5K championship, which included a bunch of college rising sophomores.
“I was really surprised because I was in a really competitive field of a lot of collegians, so I didn’t expect, as the only high schooler, to win,” Belf said. “I just wanted to stay with the top of the pack, and it ended up that I was able to finish strong and take the win.”
Now she is back running with and against high school kids and was thrilled to be part of her team again, even though cross-country is very much an individual sport.
“I think it definitely is a team sport, because no matter how fast or slow you are, your team is there to back you up or pull you along and encourage you to do better,” Belf said. “We’re always working together and pushing each other.”