Forsyth Sisters Pace Pioneer in Division 1 Championship Sweep

November 6, 2021

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.

Ann Arbor Pioneer cross countryThe 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.”

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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

Grand Rapids Speedsters Dominate Division 2 Girls Cross Country Final

November 4, 2023

BROOKLYN — Emily Tomes of Grand Rapids Catholic Central might be the first MHSAA cross country champion to go all season without winning a meet until it mattered the most.

There are two good reasons for that.

First, she runs in the Grand Rapids area, which is a hotbed for high school cross country. Her biggest league rival, Selma Anderson of Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills, was the runner-up in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final on Saturday.

Second, she was adjusting all season to a significant change in her training volume.

Natalie VanOtteren leads Grand Rapids Christian's team title run with a fifth-place finish.As a result, she had five second-place finishes in nine races and didn’t run faster than 18:25.5 until her conference and Regional meets.

“I ramped up my miles, so my legs felt tired for a lot of my races,” Tomes said. “So, that’s why I recently started running sub-18. My legs started to get used to the mileage. I was just trying to wait until this meet. This is when I was going to try to run my best.”

Tomes was the Division 2 champion, running a time of 17:31.4 on a Michigan International Speedway course that yielded fast times all day.

She won a kick down the stretch against St. Joseph senior Gail Vaikutis, who took second in 17:33.6.

“I feel like I do rely on my kick quite a bit, but I just knew it could help me pass those girls and it gives me a lot of confidence moving forward, ” Tomes said. “I have a couple postseason meets, so I’m really looking forward to those.”

It was anyone’s race when a pack of five runners reached the two-mile mark within one second of one another. It was a two-runner race coming down the straightaway, with Tomes passing Vaikutis in the final tenth of a mile.

“I don’t normally run in packs,” Tomes said. “This season kind of started off slower for me, so I wasn’t used to racing with these girls. I know they know how to run really fast. If I could just let them carry me along, it would help me out.”

Grand Rapids Christian won the team championship with a score of 112 points. Last season’s champion Otsego was second with 131.

The Eagles won their seventh MHSAA championship and first since 2014.

Senior Natalie VanOtteren, who defeated Tomes by 17 seconds at Regionals, led Grand Rapids Christian by placing fifth in 17:58.2. Sophomore Lilah Poel was 20th, sophomore Ellie Scholma 30th, senior Payton Holtz 31st and senior Naomi Nelson 65th for the Eagles.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Emily Tomes, left, breaks away from St. Joseph's Gail Vaikutis during the closing stretch of the Division 2 Final. (Middle) Natalie VanOtteren leads Grand Rapids Christian's team title run with a fifth-place finish. (Photos by Dave McCauley/