BROOKLYN — If there is an expectation to maintain a family legacy, Rachel Forsyth doesn’t feel it at home.
“My dad makes it very known there’s no pressure put on any of us, but it does feel really good to follow in my sisters’ footsteps,” Forsyth said.
Forsyth is carving out her own legacy at Pioneer, becoming the first of three talented sisters to win an MHSAA cross country championship after crossing the Lower Peninsula Division 1 finish line first Saturday at Michigan International Speedway in 17:09.32.
Her time was the fastest by a sophomore girl in 26 MHSAA Finals at MIS, breaking the mark of 17:17.5 set by Waterford Mott’s Shannon Osika in 2008.
The Forsyth parents, Ian and Jessica, were standout runners for the University of Michigan.
Anne Forsyth was the 2016 Division 1 runner-up and placed fifth at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships. Sarah Forsyth, a senior on this year’s team, placed eighth in 18:02.86 Saturday for her third all-state finish.
The sisters led Pioneer to a third straight Division 1 team championship by a 68-100 margin over Holland West Ottawa.
Senior Cookie Baugh was 12th in 18:16.55, junior Emily Cooper 35th in 18:44.39 and sophomore Natalie Mello 45th in 18:54.67 to complete the Pioneers’ scoring.
“My teammates are really fast,” Rachel Forsyth said. “They definitely push me in workouts. We all work together. I love all of them, so it’s a nice atmosphere.”
It was the second time that Forsyth had crossed the finish line first at MIS, but she places an asterisk on last year’s first-place performance.
The MHSAA Finals were split into two sections last year to reduce the size of fields as a COVID-19 precaution. Forsyth won the heat for runners whose teams finished first or second at Regionals, but Birmingham Seaholm senior Audrey DaDamio had the fastest time of the day in the other heat.
“I like ‘won’ the race, but there were two,” Forsyth said. “I feel accomplished right now.”
Forsyth ran fearlessly, going to the lead right away to provide a target for some strong runners. Forsyth reached the mile mark in 5:27.9, with Arianne Olson of Holland West Ottawa (5:28.1) and Julia Flynn of Traverse City Central (5:29.6) the only runners within 10 seconds.
By the two-mile mark, which Forsyth hit in 11:00.3, she had an 8.6-second lead over Olson and a 12.1-second cushion over Flynn.
Flynn finished second in 17:20.49, while Olson was third in 17:36.81. The top seven runners broke 18 minutes.
“It’s really special,” Forsyth said. “I watched my sisters run here. It’s just so exciting to be doing it myself.”
PHOTOS (Top) Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Rachel Forsyth pulls away during the closing stretch of Saturday’s Division 1 race at MIS. (Middle) Sarah Forsythe makes her final sprint to finish second for Pioneer. (Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)
Kent City cross country coach Jill Evers has been named the 2021-22 National Coach of the Year for girls cross country by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association.
Evers was selected by a committee including representatives from all eight NFHS sections – Michigan is part of Section 4 with Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The following brief bio includes an excerpt from Evers’ coaching philosophy, which nominees were asked to submit after being identified as candidates for the awards.
Jill Evers joined the Kent City athletic staff as an assistant cross country coach in 1991 after previously coaching a season each at Allegan High School and Allegan Middle School. She took over Kent City’s girls and boys varsity cross country programs in 1993 and also has served as head girls track & field coach since 1993. She led Kent City’s girls cross country team to a Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final runner-up finish in 2021, the program’s second runner-up finish under her leadership, and she’s also guided Kent City’s girls program to 15 league and seven Regional titles and nine total top-eight Finals finishes. She previously was named an NFHS Section Coach of the Year for girls track & field in 2006 after leading Kent City’s girls track & field team to its first MHSAA Finals championship in that sport, and inducted into the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012. Evers also is a longtime science teacher at Kent City and advisor and mentor for a variety of school activities in addition to coaching.
“I know people say, ‘Athletics is an extension of the classroom,’ but I believe it's so much more than that. While participating in sports, young people can learn about themselves and others, challenge themselves and grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. Athletics is where we learn life lessons, such as how to lose with grace, cheer for teammates and even opponents, win with humility, deal with adversity, empathize with others, respect all those involved, be grateful for healthy bodies and opportunities to compete and push ourselves beyond what was originally thought possible. Success is different for each person, but I believe cross country lends itself to individual success. Everyone can improve and learn lifelong healthy habits. Everyone can set and achieve goals. Those who aren't as fast often earn the respect of the more gifted runners because of their perseverance. It is my job as a coach to encourage, motivate, and challenge all students who want to participate, and then congratulate them for a job well done.”
Three more Michigan coaches earned honors in Section 4. Mark Posey was honored in boys golf after leading Big Rapids to a 10th-place finish in Lower Peninsula Division 3 in 2022 after four straight Finals runner-up finishes. (There was no LP boys golf season in 2020 due to COVID-19.) Lake Orion boys lacrosse coach Ronald Hebert was honored after guiding his team to the Division 1 Quarterfinals last spring after taking the Dragons to the Semifinals in 2021. Scott Werner was honored in girls track & field after leading Pewamo-Westphalia to a runner-up finish at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals. P-W shared the LPD3 Finals championship in 2021 and has won titles four of the last nine seasons (not counting 2020).
The NFHS has been recognizing coaches through an awards program since 1982.