Junior Gabi Forrest sprinted across the finish line at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional meet last Friday in third place, after an incredible kick to the finish. At the 3,500 meter mark of the race, Forrest was in 19th place and few might have guessed that she would end up in third just a few minutes later. The moment she fled by her spectating teammates, one of them asserted, “Oh Gabi’s got this.” Lo and behold, Forrest sprinted through the finish line gunning for the bronze medal — a full 16 places higher than her last marker. Her finishing time of 20:12 was 34 seconds faster than the 20:46 race she ran at the same exact course just a few weeks earlier at the start of the season.
After a bit of rest and a lot of water, a Class of 1966 Princeton alumnus, full of proud Tiger spirit, said to her, “I’d just like to let you know, you are the smartest cross country runner I’ve ever watched. Every runner here should learn from you.” Forrest, a modest and humble runner, blushed and gave her thanks, struggling to accept the compliment. As her current status as the Nationals-Bound Ivy League Champion of the year illustrates, this alumus’s statement was nothing short of the truth.
This year’s women’s cross country team had an incredible amount of depth and every runner really stepped up to the plate. As a unit, Princeton was fourth overall with a total of 123 points, a large improvement from last year's eighth-place finish. According to Forrest, it’s the Tiger team’s solidarity and spirit that motivated her last two stellar performances: “Having such a positive and supportive team makes it easy to find motivation to work hard to do your best.”
Forrest has been a key competitor for the team since the very start of the season. At both the Penn State and Paul Short meets, Forrest crossed the finish line in second place for the Tigers. Then, at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, she became the the eighth Tiger in school history to be crowned individual champion, outkicking Yale's Andrea Masterson in a close battle to the finish. Following this race, Forrest was selected as the Suburban Transit/GoPrincetonTigers.com Athlete of the Week. While she has certainly proven to be a formidable individual competitor for the Princeton squad though, she says it’s the fact that "such an individual sport can also be the closest team sport” that makes her love cross country so much.
On Thursday, Forrest will travel early in the morning to Louisville, Ky to compete in Saturday’s NCAA Championship 6K race at 10:45 a.m. The Australian born runner’s pre-race strategy is simple: “Staying relaxed is really important,” she said. She is the ninth Tiger in school history to qualify for this race as an individual and is the first since fellow teammate and current senior Megan Curham did so in 2014. Coverage of the championship race will be available starting at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time on FloTrack for cross country fans to watch the most exciting race of the collegiate season.