By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half
BROOKLYN — Rachel DaDamio of Birmingham Seaholm may be the only runner to ever finish second in an MHSAA championship cross country meet without ever having won a race in her career.
Not one race. Not even a dual meet or low-key invitational.
First place is pretty much spoken for when Audrey Belf toes the start line.
Since DaDamio has been Belf's teammate for four years, winning hasn't been a viable option.
But while Belf beat every opponent in the state this year, DaDamio didn't lose to anybody else. Her eighth second-place finish in as many meets helped Seaholm win the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship with 88 points. Traverse City Central was second with 115, followed by defending-champion Northville with 135.
Belf repeated as the individual champion with a time of 17:19.0. DaDamio held off freshman Karenna Duffey of Macomb L'Anse Creuse North to grab second in 17:29.4. Duffey was third in 17:33.1. Those were the three fastest times of the day in any division.
DaDamio doesn't mind her lack of individual first-place medals, because she has two team championship medals from the MHSAA Finals.
"It's an honor," she said. "It doesn't make a difference to me. I just want to constantly improve for myself, then whatever place I get I know I worked hard."
After crossing the finish line, Belf's attention immediately turned to the race behind her. She had to be moved away from the finish line while she watched DaDamio duel with Duffey.
"It was awesome," Belf said. "In every single meet this year we've been 1-2. It's been so cool to have my teammate behind me like that. It's like a little dynamic duo. I love it."
Belf had already opened up a gap when the runners hit the end of the long straightaway in the first 700 yards of the race.
"I wanted to stay behind a little bit at the start, but people were not going out as fast as I'd hoped, so I kind of just took it there," Belf said. "In the second mile, I got caught up in the wind. I felt I should have pushed through more and finished strong, but I can't complain."
Seaholm regained the title it lost last year when it finished fourth. DaDamio didn't run in that meet because of an injury, but the Maples did lose No. 2 runner Marissa Dobry, who moved to Oregon.
Belf, DaDamio and No. 3 runner Julia Demko were on the 2012 championship team. Demko took 20th on Saturday with a time of 18:21.5.
Completing Seaholm's scoring were Audrey Ladd (40th, 18:52.0) and Mary Sanders (54th, 19:00.5).
"To win two state championships in a day is like a magical dream come true," Belf said.
PHOTOS: Birmingham Seaholm’s Rachel DaDamio keeps pace ahead of Karenna Duffey of Macomb L'Anse Creuse North to finish individual runner-up and help the Maples regain the MHSAA LP Division 1 team title. (Below) Seaholm’s Audrey Belf claimed her second straight individual championship. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)