Nancy Boudreau had a smile on her face, along with a look of surprise. It wasn’t full-blown shock or bewilderment, just pleasant surprise.
“I really didn’t think we would win this,” said Boudreau, the longtime and highly respected and successful Pioneer girls’ cross country coach. “If we had Sarah (Forsyth) all season, I would have thought we could win it but I wasn’t so sure we could pull it off.”
While Boudreau was pontificating, the final results of the MHSAA Division 1 Girls Cross Country State Finals were being rattled off over the MIS public-address system early Friday afternoon in Brooklyn. The Pioneers were announced as the state champions and Boudreau and her runners hadn’t even heard the final results.
They were too busy celebrating what they already knew they had just pulled off.
“I’m just feeling super excited and super proud of myself and my teammates,” said Pioneer’s Cookie Baugh, just moments after the official results were announced. “It’s a great feeling. I’m just so happy.”
It didn’t seem like it was a surprise to any of the Pioneers. They had already crunched some numbers and figured they had won it all after the unofficial results were added up following the two D-1 races.
And this wasn’t even close.
Pioneer landed two runners in the top five and finished with 129 points, more than a few steps ahead of second-place Traverse City Central (168). Clarkston was third (174) and Holland West Ottawa took fourth (214).
Saline, the only team to defeat the Pioneers (the Hornets won the SEC Red Championships late last month), finished fifth with 219 points.
Pioneer took advantage of the perfect running conditions – sunny skies, warm temperatures – as they ran in the second of two D-1 races. The first race was for Regional third-place teams and individual runners and the second race was for Regional winners and second-place teams.
Birmingham Seaholm’s Audrey Dadamio, who ran in the first race, took first overall with a time of 17:46.07. Pioneer’s Rachel Forsyth, who won the second race comfortably, took second overall with a time of 17:55.60.
Forsyth finish capped off a brilliant rookie season for the Pioneers. Only a freshman, she took first in every event she ran leading up to the State Finals except for a dual-meet with Brighton (she was third). FYI – the girl who beat her in the dual-meet (Brighton’s Katie Carothers) was 22nd overall on Friday.
The other runner who beat Forsyth in that Brighton dual-meet was Baugh, her Pioneer teammate. Only a junior, Baugh had a fantastic run on Friday. She placed fifth overall with a time of 18:10.78, a few steps ahead of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central Clara James-Heer (18:12.99).
Having two runners in the top five is huge in a state finals but it’s not a guarantee of gold. It takes all seven runners to step up and they did just that on Friday.
Sarah Forsyth, who finished ninth at last year’s state finals with a time of 18:14.4, missed a big chunk of the 2020 season with a foot injury. Her first meet this year was Oct. 17 in the SEC Red Championships. In just her fourth race of the season, the junior went 19:22.88 to place 44th overall in the state finals.
Charlotte Batra, another junior, placed 73rd with a time of 19:47.28. Sophomore Emily Cooper ran a time of 20:04.36 and finished 95th. Freshman Sylvia Sanok Dufallo was 162nd with a time of 21:00.56 and senior Anna Dudek was 200th in 21:32.62.
Skyline sent two runners to the D-1 finals on Friday. Sophomore Lydia Cocciolone finished in 155th place with a time of 20:50.21. Senior Catrin Koselka finished in 199th place with a time of 21:31.97.