Ann Arbor Pioneer junior – Cross Country
Forsyth has been one of the state’s fastest distance runners since starting her high school cross country career three seasons ago. But she’s made a jump to MHSAA championship contender this fall, showing it again by running a career record 17:21 to finish ahead of a loaded field at the Oct. 8 Portage Invitational and earn Michigan National Guard “Performance of the Week” for Oct. 3-9.
The junior standout won the Portage Division 1 race by six seconds as her team – ranked No. 3 in Lower Peninsula Division 1 – edged No. 2 Northville by three points to claim the team title as well. Forsyth’s time tied for fastest of the day with that of Lansing Catholic’s Olivia Theis, who won the Division 3 race. That 17:21 also set Pioneer’s 5K record, and Forsyth has seven others in either indoor or outdoor track & field, including the outdoor 3,200 record of 10:30.97 and as part of outdoor 3,200 (8:53.86), 4-mile (20:39.13) and distance medley (12:37.57) relays.
Forsyth finished seventh at the MHSAA LP Division 1 Cross Country Final as a freshman and 13th last season, and her 17:21 was more than five seconds faster than her best time of 2015. She also finished seventh in the 3,200 at the MHSAA Track & Field Division 1 Final this spring and ran the first leg of the Finals-champion 3,200 relay. Her school records are especially impressive considering the high regard for Pioneer’s program, which won three cross country and 16 girls track & field MHSAA titles under late coach Bryan Westfield, who died during the summer of 2015 after a fight with cancer. Forsyth is now coached by Nancy Boudreau, who took over last fall after serving as Westfield’s assistant for five years and also coached for a decade in Bowling Green’s running programs.
Coach Nancy Boudreau said: “Anne is just now starting to believe in herself. She is super motivated and is always striving to do her best. In the last year she has taken all aspects of training more seriously, especially the weight training and core training. She is also a tremendous team leader and keeps things very light in practice and at meets. She is well known for her inspirational pep talks before races, which get the girls psyched for the races.”
Performance Point: “We all got out really hard in the beginning, and I was kinda worried I wasn’t going to be able to hang with them,” Forsyth said of the Portage win. “Partway through I felt really good, and I started trying to push up the hills – trying to push the whole way. I was really surprised; throughout the season I’ve been staying with (the top runners) for about a mile, and they’ve been pulling away. It boosted my confidence that I stuck with them longer.”
This year’s jump: “Partly it’s an attitude change, just knowing that I can do it. When it hurts in the middle (of a race), if you don’t think you can do it, you just slow down and not really care. … We’ve (also) been doing slightly different training, going on slightly longer runs. Our workouts are more intense, and we’ve been doing a little weight training. It just makes me feel more consistent, like I don’t have as many really bad days.”
Full team ahead: “We’ve done really well. We’re trying to get everybody to get more consistent, all of us running well the same day. A lot of us know we can run faster, and it’s motivating to know we haven’t hit our peak yet.”
Pep talker: “It’s really random. I just pick something – it’s kinda dumb – but it gets everybody hyped up and excited. Just acting kinda crazy can shake out some of the nerves. I was always like that. I try to keep everybody loose (because) we tend to get nervous.”
Westfield wisdom: “He really taught us how to care about it. If we have a bad day, that it’s not the end of the world. He really showed … athletics can help you in every part of your life. He just showed a lot of compassion.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2016-17 honorees:
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Ann Arbor Pioneer's Anne Forsyth runs a cross country race last fall. (Middle) Forsyth placed individually and as part of a relay at this spring's Track & Field Finals. (Photos courtesy of Ann Arbor Pioneer Cross Country/Peter Draugalis.)
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.
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.
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/RunMichigan.com.)