Running star Gabi Forrest ’19 has earned a reputation for strong finishes, like the one that propelled her to the individual title at last year’s Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country Championships. Forrest was in 18th place midway through the 6-kilometer race before making a gradual climb into the lead pack. She outkicked Yale’s Andrea Masterson down the stretch to win by less than a second.
“I love racing like that,” said Forrest, a native of Brisbane, Australia. “You get more and more motivated and more and more empowered as you pass people. Overtaking people and not being overtaken yourself spurs me on to go even faster. That fuels the fire to keep picking up the pace.”
“We all can’t race the way Gabi does,” added Princeton coach Brad Hunt, “but she does it exceptionally well.”
Given how she races, it is perhaps not surprising that Forrest has come on late in her career. A stress fracture ended her freshman year in 2014. She took a year off in 2015 due to tendinitis, and another cross country season in 2016 was lost to sacroiliac joint dysfunction. She took fourth in the 5,000 meters at the Heps Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the spring of 2017 to kick off her healthiest year at Princeton. But after winning the Heps cross country title in the fall, the joint dysfunction reemerged last spring.
“In one sense, it’s a little disappointing in that I’ve proven I have the potential to do a lot more than I did in the past two years, being deterred by injury,” Forrest said. “In another sense, I’m so thankful that I could put together such a fantastic season last year.”
At the 2017 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, Forrest came from 47th at the 1-mile mark and 19th at 2,500 meters to take third place and earn a trip to the NCAA Championships. Forrest was 85th at nationals after 2,000 meters, 41st at 4,000 meters and over the final 2,000 meters climbed to 37th to become the ninth All-American in program history.
Forrest traces her come-from-behind style to her days as a youth and high school runner, when she had to adapt her approach after starting faster but struggling to finish well.
In the wake of her injuries, Forrest has adapted her training as well. She typically runs just four days per week and cross-trains the other days. “Get that woman on a spin bike,” Hunt said, “and you’ll be convinced she’s training for the Tour de France.”
The Princeton staff is hoping Forrest will have another speedy finish this season, as the Tigers prepare to host the Heps meet Oct. 27. While the Princeton women have had strong results — a win at the H-Y-P meet, first in a field of 33 at Loyola University’s Lakefront Invitational, and a 4th-place finish at the Penn State National Open — Forrest has yet to run in a meet this season.
“She’s learned so much about herself from these challenges; she’s come into her own knowing what makes her successful,” Hunt said. “It’s been fun to see the evolution of Gabi Forrest the person along with Gabi Forrest the athlete. She’s started to figure out life as she figures out athletics.”