Learning to Love Practice

Alex Forte

Meet women’s track & field and cross country standout Alex Forte ’03, who was inducted this fall into the Dickinson College Sports Hall of Fame.

Meet women’s track & field and cross country standout Alex Forte ’03, who was inducted this fall into the Dickinson College Sports Hall of Fame.

Once upon a time, Alex Forte ’03 was a semi-motivated runner who loved being part of a team but didn’t love working out. “I admit, I sometimes gave my coaches a hard time,” she says with a laugh. “I just didn’t see the point in all of that practicing.”

Today, the former student who once grumbled about practicing is inspiring a new generation of runners to test their limits and discover what they, too, can achieve.

For Forte, the turning point arrived at the close of a tepid freshman year. “I realized that running was something I could be good at if I just put the work into it,” she recalls. “So I trained hard all summer, just to see what I could do. And when I got back I was suddenly one of the top runners. I found out I loved to compete.”

Forte came in 14th at the Cross Country Nationals and seventh at the Track & Field Nationals that year and was named Dickinson’s first female All-American cross-country athlete. As a junior and senior, she had a chance to compete in the finals again, this time as a part of the team.

“At the time it was all about the camaraderie and competition,” she says of her running career. “But what I didn’t realize then was that running is also sort of like a therapy for me, as it is for many people. I need to run, just like some people need to write a poem or paint a picture or read a good book.”

After graduation, Forte moved to Japan, where she taught English and worked as an assistant coach for three years. Then it was off to Thailand for additional ESL certification and to New York, to earn her M.A. in English education. Finally, Forte settled in Culpepper, Va., where she teaches middle- and high-school English and coaches middle- and high-school cross country and track. She says she’s found her niche.

“What’s great about being a teacher and coach is that you get to help students discover who they are and what they like to do in these very different contexts and settings,” she explains. “I get to know different sides of them, and I get to help them learn and explore in different ways.”

Occasionally, one of Forte’s former students will stop by to catch up—one of them, Charlie Bayne ’15, has even followed Forte’s footsteps to Dickinson, where he’s a member of the men’s track team.

In turn, Forte stays in touch with her Dickinson coaches, whom she sees in a different light these days. She says she often jokes with Don Nichter, cross country/track & field head coach about the tough time she gave him, way back when.

“I didn’t realize it then, but my teachers and coaches at Dickinson really dedicated a big part of their lives to helping us, because they wanted us to succeed,” says Forte. “And that’s what attracted me to teaching and coaching—I wanted to do the same thing for my students that they did for me.”

Published September 30, 2013