VanderKooi Repeats, Bridgman Wins 1st Title

November 2, 2019

Second Half reports

BROOKLYN – Abby VanderKooi wasn’t being cocky.

She was merely stating the obvious.

“I don’t normally have competition anywhere, so it’s really tough,” the Muskegon Western Michigan Christian sophomore said.

Being one of the nation’s top runners and competing in the smallest division at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula cross country championships only accentuates the gap between VanderKooi and her competition.

The Division 4 girls race Saturday at Michigan International Speedway was a battle for second place as VanderKooi ran solo up front to repeat as champion by 1 minute, 11.7 seconds with a time of 18:11.0.

Last year, she won by a margin of 1:15.6 in 17:47.3.

So, how does VanderKooi maintain her focus in races when there is nobody else around to push her?

“I try to recite Bible verses, and that helps sometimes,” she said.

Her favorite, she said, is Philippians 4:13.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” she said. “I like that one a lot.”

VanderKooi followed up her Division 4 championship last year by placing third in the Foot Locker National Championship in San Diego. She plans to run the Midwest Regional on Nov. 30 in Kenosha, Wis., to qualify for the national meet Dec. 14.

VanderKooi had a gap on the pack by the end of the 700-meter opening straightaway. Riley Ford of Marlette was in second place, but had no delusions of trying to catch VanderKooi.

“I just ignore that she’s there,” Ford said. “I know she’s at a way higher level than I am. I try to do what I can do. My goal was to get second, and it happened.”

Ford held second place the entire race, holding off a brief challenge from 2018 runner-up Madison Volz of Lansing Christian at the two-mile mark. Ford finished in 19:22.7. Volz was third in 19:30.2.

“Last year I got fifth,” Ford said. “I was holding second, then I got passed at the two mile and kept getting passed and couldn’t hold it. The last two weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of kilometer repeats at race pace. My pace was ingrained in my head, and it really helped. I just wanted it really bad. I haven’t had the best season.”

In the team competition, Bridgman ended Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart’s four-year run as champion by scoring 132 points. Sacred Heart was second with 148, and Kalamazoo Christian was third with 174.

Karsyn Stewart was sixth overall and third among team runners in 19:38.8, while Arie Hackett was 11th overall and sixth among team runners in 19:58.2 to lead Bridgman. The Bees’ previous best finish at an MHSAA Final was fifth in Class D in 1985. They didn’t qualify again until 2015, but have since made it four of the last five years.

Summer Fast was 39th (20:59.3), Jane Kaspar 68th (21:43.1) and Mikaela Owen 81st (21:55.8) to complete Bridgman’s scoring.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) WMC’s Abby VanderKooi builds a big lead during Saturday’s Division 4 Final. (Middle) Bridgman’s Karsyn Stewart (1702) follows Maple City Glen Lake’s Makenna Scott through a curve. (Photos by Dave McCauley/

Performance of the Week: Ann Arbor Pioneer's Rachel Forsyth

September 1, 2023

Rachel ForsythRachel 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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