News from Stateside…
On Saturday (17th November) with temperatures at zero degrees and early winter snow on the ground in Madison, Wisconsin, Newcastle & District AC’s Ryan Forsyth took part in the NCAA Cross-Country Champs – a championship race he would be doing for his final time.
During the past summer, Forsyth, who has grown up in Maryland but who’s mum’s family hail from near to Comber, spent a few weeks in County Down, as he had done during many summers before, escaping the searing heat of the US summer on the farm in fertile Comber Spuds territory. As well as exploring Castlewellan and Tollymore Forests, Murlough Reserve and the beach plus the ‘going away’ (very) speedy pints in O’Hares, Ryan won the Irish 5000m title in a 14:30.78, from Ethiopia’s Hiko Tonosa by 1/100th of a second in one of the most exciting races of the Championships. Earlier in the season, in April, he had set a lifetime best over 5000m of 13:41.19 in Stanford, California.
Since he returned to college in August, Forsyth got back to continuing to build his endurance base under the tutelage of the famous Colorado Buffs athletics coach, Mark Wetmore, who has been guiding him over the past three years. He raced sparingly with the focus being on Saturday’s climax of the college season. On 13th October, he was 10th in 24:01 (8k) in the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals (13 seconds behind the winner); on 26th October he was 10th again in 23:15 (5 seconds behind the winner) in the PAC-12 Champs in Stanford. On the 9th November he came home once again 10th in the NCAA Mountain Regional Champs in Utah in 29:27 over 10k (10 seconds behind the winner) and commented afterwards that “it was all about next weekend and he felt that there was more to come”.
Championship race day dawned very cold, cold for the time of year even in Wisconsin, for the climax of the collegiate cross-country season and Forsyth put his marker down early being in touch at the front of the field. The field consists of 250 qualified runners and is probably the largest strength in depth cross-country race in the world each year. Forsyth was through 2k in 5:44 in the top 15 but only 10 seconds covered the top 100 at this stage. Through 4k in 12:01 and 6k on 17:35, the race was now speeding up and Forsyth was still in the top 10, having the race of his life. He reach 8k in 23:22 and just lost touch with the leaders over the closing stages – the race was won by local (the first time a local had won his home champs in 26 years) Morgan McDonald in 29:08 with Ryan coming home in a brilliant 11th in 29:21 – only 13 seconds behind the winner and a superb time for 10k on the snowy and slightly undulating course. Last year he had been 57th and well over a minute behind the winner, so this clearly illustrates the progress he is making and he is still only 22 years old.
To cap off a great week, Forsyth heard from the Athletics World governing body, the IAAF, that he is confirmed as eligible to run for Ireland internationally. All being well, Athletics Ireland will select him off the back of this superb performance to compete at the European XC Champs on 9th December in Tilburg, Netherlands. Before then he will back ‘home’ for a few preparation training runs in the local forests and no doubt back on Murlough beach.
Congratulations to Ryan on his breakthrough performance at the NCAA XC Champs from all at Newcastle & District AC.