Rachel Bonner has the biggest races of the season in front of her, and one of the biggest decisions of her life behind her.
The Port Huron senior track and cross country star verbally committed to run at Syracuse University on Tuesday night. Michigan State and Texas A&M were also among her final group.
“I talked to the assistant coach (Adam Smith) who came and visited me on the home visit, then I talked to the Michigan State coach after that,” Bonner said. “(Smith) was very excited. He was like, ‘We’re going to be really good.’
“It was really hard. I chose excellent schools to visit. They’re all really good schools with really good academic plans set up for me to get into nursing.”
Bonner’s personal-best of 17 minutes, 15.9 seconds is the second best 5K in the state this season, and 14th in the country. She was fourth in the state in Division 1 a year ago, and was second in the 1,600 meters during the track season, running 4:49.68 despite an injury.
She’ll be joining a Syracuse women’s cross country team she believes is on the rise.
“Coach (Chris) Fox has been there for 10 years, and he really knows great formulas for distance runners,” Bonner said. “You can see that on the guys side, and the girls side is on the rise. I think they could be a top 10 team.”
Bonner visited all three of her final schools this fall, and called the entire process fun.
“I had to make a list of the things I wanted,” she said. “The big three was a coaching staff that was there to stay and knew how to develop runners coming in, and that you could see growth when (the runners) left. Second was the team, and how I well I fit in with them. Third was setting me up for nursing.
“All the coaches were very consistent with calling me, and none of them were rushing me. I never felt pressured throughout this.”
Syracuse, Bonner said, felt like home on her visit.
“When I first got off the plane and onto campus, I was like, ‘This is cool,’” Bonner said. “Just the relationship that the athletes have with the coaches, that’s what I was looking for.”
Bonner plans to sign during the NCAA’s early signing period, which begins Nov. 11, the week after the MHSAA finals.
“It feels really good,” Bonner said. “I didn’t have a race this weekend, so I’ve had this two-week break from racing where I’ve really been able to focus on my decision.
“I didn’t feel any pressure, and I talked it over with people that I trust. It’s just really cool to know where my home is next year.”
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.