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.)
Rachel Forsyth ♦ Ann Arbor Pioneer
Senior ♦ Cross Country
The latest in a long line of Pioneer distance stars, Forsyth began her final high school cross country season with a nearly 26-second victory in the big-school race at the Benzie Central Pete Moss Invitational on Saturday. She ran a personal-record 17:09.24, which says a ton considering her past work; Forsyth was the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final champion in 2021 as a sophomore and the 2020 runner-up in her first trip to Michigan International Speedway. What's more, she was followed in this Benzie race by reigning Division 3 champion Jessica Jazwinski of Hart in second and last year's Division 4 champion Aiden Harrand of Buckley in third as Pioneer finished second as a team against an elite field.
An injury delayed the start of Forsyth's junior season last fall until the end of September, and she ran only 62nd at the LPD1 Final five weeks later. But she was clearly back to unstoppable during track season, setting personal records in the 3,200, 1,600, 800 and 400 while going undefeated in individual events for the spring and winning LPD1 Finals championships in the 800, 1,600 and as part of the 3,200 relay. She and her siblings have enjoyed an incredible run of success over the last decade; older sister Anne Forsyth was a four-time top-15 cross country finisher at LPD1 Finals and runner-up as a junior in 2016, and sister Sarah Forsyth twice finished among the top 10 individually and as a senior with Rachel in 2021 helped Pioneer to the team title.
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(PHOTOS by Run Michigan.)