Healthy Emily Forner going for second national title for Allegheny track and field
Allegheny senior runner Emily Forner entered the week with the top time in NCAA Division III in the 5,000 meters: 16 minutes, 33.01 seconds. In the winter, she won the the indoor 3,000-meter national title.
But just a couple of years ago, she thought her best days as a runner were behind her.
After a strong freshman season in which she earned multiple North Coast Athletic Conference track and field honors, the Beaver graduate anticipated a steady uptick in her performance. Instead, she bogged down, and her sophomore season was one disappointment after another.
She tried to push herself harder in practice. She tried to bear down on race days.
No matter what she did, her running was stagnating. Forner began to lose confidence.
“I was feeling really tired in general, and then to have the running not going super well on top of it … it’s in my nature to think if I’m not doing well, I’m not trying hard enough,” she said. “I kept pushing myself to try to work harder. Then when it didn’t come to fruition, it really started to affect me … feeling really down on myself.”
Forner finally sought a medical opinion for what seemed like a constant inability to muster enough energy. Tests revealed she was battling an iron deficiency. On top of it, she had been experimenting with a vegan diet, so without the naturally occurring iron in meat, her already-low iron levels weren’t getting any kind of a boost.
She received treatment in the form of iron supplements and incorporated a modicum of meat back into her diet. By the time the NCAC cross country championships rolled around during her junior year, Forner said she was starting to feel like her old self.
This past fall, she qualified for the NCAA Division III cross country championships. She finished ninth to earn All-American status, but, Gators cross country coach Ben Mourer said, it was a preview of bigger achievements.
“In cross country, she actually had a shot (to win) in the national meet,” said Mourer, who also coaches the Gators track and field distance runners. “She led at the half mile and was second at the halfway point. After that, she knew she could run with anyone in the country.”
She entered the indoor national championships seeded third in the 3,000, but the runners seeded ahead of her opted out of the event in favor of other races, leaving Forner as the top seed. It was uncharted territory, though her effort didn’t reflect it.
Forner won her preliminary race and the final. Before that, she never had won a 3,000-meter race.
“I had some self doubt. It was weird. I had never been seeded first at a national meet,” she said. “Eventually, before the race, I calmed myself down. I was definitely a lot more confident — still not thinking I was going to win, per se, but a lot more confident.”
Added Mourer: “I think sometimes people are intimidated to say they want to be a national champion. She was not.”
Now she has her sights set on a second national title. The NCAA Division III outdoor championships are May 23-25 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.
Because of the way outdoor nationals are set up, Mourer said, athletes are more inclined to double up on events. That means Forner likely will be challenged by some of the ladies she didn’t face in the indoor 3,000.
With good health and a renewed sense of self-assuredness as a runner, Forner believes she can make a strong push for the gold.
“I had watched the ladies do incredibly well in the indoor 5K (nationals),” she said. “There’s a lot of competition out there, but … coming off a national championship is definitely a good confidence booster.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .