We have choices. Begin at the starting line? Or sprint right to the end? Wherever you start, you will find Pioneer’s outstanding distance runner Anne Forsyth. The difference is that at the finish line Forsyth is usually by herself.
So let’s start at the start – where it’s a little more crowded.
Both of Anne’s parents, Ian and Jessica Forsyth, ran track and cross country at the University of Michigan. So it was only natural that their daughter would follow in their “footsteps.”
“My dad ran in college and after college as well and he would go to races and I would go with him and do the kid races,” says Anne, now a senior and top runner for the Pioneer cross country team and a favorite to win this year’s state meet in Division 1. “I think my first race was when I was 7 or 8 years old.”
Those early races were just a chance to hang out with dad. Instead of a daddy-daughter dance it was a daddy-daughter run.
“When I first started running it wasn’t something I was training for it was just something to do with my dad,” she says. “I placed pretty high in those early races but I didn’t know if I was going to be very good or even if it was something I wanted to do when I got older.”
She said she tried club soccer in seventh grade and a few other sports along the way but never took any of them too seriously. Then she started taking running seriously and has been in stride for greatness ever since.
“I started running for a team when I was in sixth grade,” she said. “I didn’t take it too seriously until eighth grade and that’s when I started to get faster. I started training with the high school team for indoor season and started taking it really serious then instead of running just for fun.”
By the time Anne landed at Pioneer as a freshman she knew almost everyone on the cross country team and they certainly knew her.
Her freshman season was impressive by any measuring stick. She had five first-place finishes including at Regionals with a time of 18:47.1. She took seventh at the state finals in 17:58.2.
As a sophomore, she had seven first-place finishes including at the Regional meet. She took 13th place at the state finals in 18:19.7.
As a junior, Forsyth won the Regionals for the third time with a time of 18:16.6 at Lake Erie Metropark. She ran second (17:35.0) at the Division 1 state finals to Battle Creek Lakeview senior Maggie Farrell who broke the tape at 17:25.6.
The Pioneers landed in second place overall to Milford at the 2016 state finals.
“We knew we had a shot at first but we had never all run our best races on the same day,” Forsyth says looking back. “It’s hard to know if everyone is going to perform their best at a high-pressure meet. We were really happy with second. It was a great accomplishment.”
Ian Forsyth helps coach the girls’ cross country team at Pioneer and the father-daughter often run together at practice, something Anne says she truly enjoys.
Pioneer head coach Nancy Shafer Boudreau truly enjoys having Anne leading the pack for this year’s talented Pioneer team, which has won both SEC Jamborees and is on pace for even more highlights.
“Anne is an extremely dedicated athlete,” says the longtime coach. “I think she realized last year how good she can be and has been doing everything necessary to keep improving. She is definitely on a mission.
“With that said, she also gets the team aspect of the sport and is very enthusiastic about her team’s prospects.”
Forsyth’s best this year in cross country is a first-place 16 minutes, 50.3 seconds at the Benzie Central Pete Moss Invitational on Aug. 26. She has other first-place finishes at the SEC Jamboree 1, SEC Jamboree 2 and the Ann Arbor Coaching Legends meet.
Cross country is scored by adding each team’s top-five finishers so having consistency is important. A team can go one-two in the race but if their fourth and fifth runners don’t hold up their end, the team score will suffer.
“We have a tighter pack this year compared to last year,” Forsyth said. “Last year we were more spread out and how well our fifth-place runner did was really important.
“This year is going great so far. We won our two SEC meets and won with a good cushion. We are more consistent this year. Our lineup changes every meet so we have more depth. But we did lose some really good runners from last year.”
While the Pioneers have one eye on Regionals, they also are focused on the task at hand.
“We take it one race at a time,” says Forsyth. “We are still trying to figure out our lineup but I think a realistic goal at this point would be top five in the state if we all run well.”
Forsyth, who runs pretty much every day except the day after a race and enjoys listening to music when running, says her parents have taught her a great deal about training, the importance of eating healthy and the mental side of high-pressure competition.
“My mom always tells me that as long as you know you ran the best you could on that particular day you should be happy regardless of the results,” she said. “But if you know you didn’t give your best then that’s when you should be disappointed.”
Her father isn’t afraid to lean on her with a vote of confidence.
“He tells me not to be afraid to go out hard and test yourself and don’t worry about who is in the race,” she said.
The Nike and Foot Locker races follow the state finals. She went to both national races last year for the first time taking 14th at Nike and fifth at Foot Locker.
Forsyth, who won the Gatorade Michigan Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year award last year, was recently honored at halftime of a Pioneer football game where she received her Gatorade Michigan Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year award from last season.
Speaking of track, Forsyth, along with then seniors Sydney Dawes, Jacalyn Overdier and Alice Hill, was part of Pioneer’s record-setting 4×800 relay team. At last year’s state finals, the foursome (with Elizabeth Kos replacing Hill) took first place with a time of 9:06.13. Forsyth ran first at the state finals in the 1600 run with a time of 4:43.84 and also took second in the 3200 run (10:27.7).
It all added up to a D-1 state title for the Pioneers who took first with 65 points, four ahead of second-place Oak Park.
Two years ago at the 2015 D-1 state finals, Pioneer’s fabulous foursome took first place in a school-record time of 8:56.52 – running away with the gold. Waterford Mott took second in 9:14.99.
When her high school career crosses the finish line this spring, Forsyth hopes to cross the street and follow again in her parent’s footsteps at the University of Michigan.
“Yeah, it’s always been my dream to go to Michigan,” said Forsyth, who didn’t even apply to any other schools.
And for Anne Forsyth, dreams seem to come true at a pretty fast pace.