Rachel Forsyth collapsed a step or two after crossing the finish line, falling to the trampled grass at Michigan International Speedway. While she fell to the ground, the Pioneer cross country runner also landed in the Michigan High School record books, breaking the record for the fastest time in a Division 1 State Finals for a sophomore.
Her time of 17 minutes, 09.32 seconds was not only a record, but also the fastest time in the D-1 race on a sunny Saturday afternoon as she crossed the finish line first, well ahead of TC Central senior Julia Flynn (17:20.49).
“I guess I face-planted there at the end,” Forsyth said a few minutes after getting back on her feet in time to welcome her teammates across the finish line. “But I am so happy. Coming in I had a flood of emotions. I was coming in first and then my time – I was so happy. And then I saw my teammates coming in and that made me even happier.”
Forsyth and the Pioneers were certainly happy when the final results were announced. Pioneer grabbed three of the top 12 spots and five of the top 45 to finish with 68 points and run away with the D-1 MHSAA State Title for the third consecutive year. Holland West Ottawa was a distant second with 100 points while Traverse City Central was third (183), Northville fourth (197) and Saline fifth (201).
It’s hard to believe that Forsyth is just to the midway point of her high school career. She came flying out of the blocks last year as a freshman and took second overall – first in her heat – at last year’s State Finals. Her 2020 season included nine first places including seven in a row leading up to the State Finals – where they split the race into two heats. She also ran second at the Michigan Meet of Champions the week after the State Finals.
This year as a sophomore, Forsyth was equally as impressive. She took first in nine of 11 races, finishing second in the other three. She won the SEC Championship, both SEC Jamborees, and the Regional at Lake Erie Metropark.
While “Rachel” is relatively new, “Forsyth” is certainly not in Michigan’s running circles. Rachel is the daughter of former U-M national champion Ian Forsyth and former U-M cross country team captain Jessica Kluge.
Then, there are her sisters.
Her older sister, Anne, is a senior at Michigan and was Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2018 and ran 17:50.9 over five kilometers (3.11 miles) to finish sixth at the Michigan Open in September. In high school, Anne was a four-time MHSAA state qualifier (finishing second as a junior) and ran fifth at the 2016 Foot Locker National Championships after winning the Foot Locker Midwest Regional.
So, what has Rachel learned from Anne?
“I’ve had some issues with being nervous before races and Anne has really helped with that, even though she doesn’t realize she has,” Rachel said. “She tells me that I can only do my best and not to worry about anything else. Just do my best and that’s all you can ask for. She’s been a big help in getting me focused.”
Rachel’s other older sister, Sarah, is a senior this year at Pioneer who capped off a brilliant high school career with an eighth-place finish time of 18:02.86 on Saturday at MIS. Sarah, who missed a good portion of her junior year because of injury, will attend Michigan State in the fall.
So, what has Rachel learned from Sarah?
“She is always having fun and is such an amazing runner,” Rachel said. “She is always getting me to relax and enjoy everything. I lean on her for a lot of things.”
And while she is certainly aware (and proud) of her family’s running legacy, it’s not something she focuses on. “My dad makes it very known that there’s no pressure put on any of us, but it does feel really good to follow in my sisters’ footsteps,” Forsyth said.
Coming into Saturday’s race, Rachel was clearly focused on winning the race and helping her team across the finish line.
“I always want to win but my mindset is to just go out and do my best,” she said. “If I ran my best it wouldn’t have mattered where I finished.”
And even though they came into the State Finals as heavy favorites, it doesn’t diminish in anyway the incredible accomplishment of not only winning three in a row but winning in 2021.
“It means so much,” said Rachel, with a huge smile. “I always want to win, both individually and as a team. I just want to do my best.”
Her best was good enough – great enough – for first place. Her winning 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.
Because she is only a sophomore, Rachel is still closer to the starting line when it comes to thinking about college.
“My dad is starting to ask me about college and he’s a bit stressed about it because we just went through it with Sarah,” Rachel says. “I have no idea where I want to go but it’s time to start thinking about it.”
Yes, it’s getting to be that time – and time is something Rachel knows all about.