Sisters Mackenzie and Syndey Forrest run the Sunshine Sprinters, a track-and-field program open to Baldwin Park student-athletes of all ages.
Set up inside the first three lanes, the runners took their mark.
Ahead of them was nothing but an endless swath of gray concrete that had been dampened from a light drizzle.
“On your mark,” says running coach Mackenzie Forrest from the grass infield. “Get set. Go!”
Up and out of their three-point stance came the three young runners — heads down as their arms swung wildly.
The sound of rubber souls meeting hard pavement reverberated out into the distance as they made their way down the stretch.
Sydney, co-running coach and Mackenzie’s older sister, stood at the far end of the track as she watched the runners speed down.
Once finally past the finish line, Sydney slowly walked over to the group as they rested out on the grass infield.
Speaking in a soft tone, Sydney offered advice to each of the young runners on how to improve their running abilities and achieve better times.
For the Forrest sisters, helping to train kids out on the track has become a passion and a business, and it’s ultimately what started the Sunshine Sprinters.
After aging out of the qualifications for a summer meet at Disney, Sydney and Mackenzie were inspired and decided to take on younger trainees.
“I was like, ‘Oh man, I can’t compete at a lot of the meets because they’re for kids,’” Sydney says. “And we were like, ‘So why don’t we start a track group, and we can bring them to meets and train them?’ We are really excited.”
Although they both initially started their careers as gymnasts before moving into track and field, Sydney and Mackenzie have pretty impressive résumés since starting their sport a few years ago. Both have competed in the junior Olympic Games and also have participated in FHSAA state meets.
Although each participates in multiple events, both prefer the jump events — such as pole vault, triple jump and high jump.
Mackenzie is an upcoming senior at Edgewater High School, where she runs track and field, while Sydney will be transferring from the University of Florida to Wesleyan University in Connecticut for academics and to continue her career in track and field.
The Sunshine Sprinters, which currently consists of 14 young runners, meet for practice from 5 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday at the Glenridge Middle School track.
“I was like, ‘Oh man, I can’t compete at a lot of the meets because they’re for kids.’ And we were like, ‘So why don’t we start a track group, and we can bring them to meets and train them?’ We are really excited.”
— Sydney Forrest
Some of the older participants come to the group with running experience, while some younger ones are new to the sport, Sydney says. However, most come with some sort of sports background.
“A lot of them do other sports too — like soccer and gymnastics,” Mackenzie says. “Which is good, because we come from gymnastics so we can kind of relate to them, and know kind of their techniques — it’s like, trying to change them into more of a track form.”
Regardless of experience or inexperience, the two welcome every student with open arms.
Each practice starts off with stretching and warm-ups, before the group divides into two. There, the sisters proceed to work with kids in different events — from running to different types of jumps.
“It’s really surprising, because even the really little kids remember the things we say,” Mackenzie says.
“But we also drill it into their heads a lot,” Sydney says. “Like every time we go to long jump, we will be like, ‘What are we focusing on? Where do we look? How do we jump?’ So we make them repeat it and do things like that, which I think helps them remember the corrections.”
The sisters plan on honing their runners’ skills as they prepare them to participate in the Evolution Summer Run Series and All Sports Battle in Winter Park.
The meet, scheduled for Aug. 4 at Showalter Stadium, will be the young runners first chance at real competition.
With this new event popping up in late summer, Sydney and Mackenzie decided that instead of running the Disney meet, it would be easier to comfortably introduce their runners to the sport at a spot closer to home.
Although the new track-and-field athletes will be training to compete in their first meet, ultimately, the goal for the Forrest sisters is to prepare their students for whatever comes next, whether in track or sports in general.
“Even if they don’t stay in track, just being able to be fast and explosive with their jumps will help them with any sport that they do,” Sydney says.
“And learning how to be in a competition and just getting the mentality of competing,” Mackenzie says. “It’s a whole different world than practice.”