Ashley Forte was faced with a difficult decision last season as a member of the Thomas Worthington High School girls track and field team.

Ashley Forte was faced with a difficult decision last season as a member of the Thomas Worthington High School girls track and field team.

Forte had qualified for the Division I state meet by finishing fourth in the 800 meters at regional in a personal-best 2 minutes, 13.56 seconds. However, in the days leading up to the state meet, she was scheduled to fly to France to spend the summer with a family in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Forte opted to forego the state meet and leave for France as scheduled. The senior is back this season, working to prove that she not only can get back to state in the 800, but finish in the top eight to reach the podium.

"It was a tough decision for me, but (going to France) also was a great opportunity," said Forte, who has a 4.25 GPA and has committed to run track at Princeton. "I knew I would compete in track meets in the future, but the chance to go to France and live with a family and learn about (the French) culture was too much to pass up."

Forte ran indoor track to prepare for the outdoor season. She placed second in the 800 (2:21.24) and teamed with Ariel Rittenhouse, Holly Payne and Christina Nash to finish eighth in the 3,200 relay (9:48.81) in the Division I indoor state meet March 8 at the University of Akron.

"Running indoor really helps because I know I can go faster," she said. "I want to get a chance to get back to state and prove that. I have enough endurance. I can go faster."

Forte also has looked strong thus far in the outdoor season. In the Dublin Classic on April 19 at Dublin Coffman, she won the 800 (2:20.63) and was a member of two relays that placed second. She teamed with Kiara Coleman, Ryanna Reid and Shay Davis in the 800 relay (1:45.88) and Christina Nash, Reid and Davis in the 1,600 relay (4:06.46).

"Ashley works out with the sprinters one day and does some mid-distance work other days," said coach Andy Cox, whose team won the 13-team Dublin Classic with 101 points, edging runner-up Pickerington Central (92.5). "She even has worked out with the guy sprinters a couple of times and has held her own."

Forte sustained a knee injury before her freshman year that ended her soccer career. A year later, she turned to running.

"Ashley was a soccer player and I think soccer players make good 800 runners because they have been building their aerobic base since they were 4 years old," Cox said. "She injured her knee as an incoming freshman and she didn't run until she was a sophomore. I talked her into running cross country as a way to get back in shape."

Forte and her teammates on the girls cross country team reached the Division I state meet for the first time last fall, finishing 13th (292) of 16 teams, behind champion Mason (76).

"Ashley is a great leader," Cox said. "We qualified for the state meet in cross country and she was a big part of that. She wasn't one of our top-three runners or anything like that. She was more like one of our No. 5, 6 or 7 runners, but she brings a lot to the table."

Forte said running cross country helps her prepare for the 800.

"Cross country helps out with endurance and helps with the mental aspect of running," she said. "When it starts to hurt, you just have to keep going and push through it until the end. It makes you push yourself to the limit."

Cox also has Forte competing in the 800 relay to help build her speed.

"We will be running her in the 800 relay until about the Gary Smith (Invitational on May 3 at home)," Cox said. "In that race, it helps in regards to her knowing the feeling of rounding that curve on the final 200 meters (of the open 800)."

"Running (a leg in the 800 relay) definitely helps," Forte said. "It gives me confidence that I can out-kick these girls when I'm pushing 100 percent."

Forte is closing in on the program record for the 800 (2:10.4), set by Laura McKinley in 1997.

"It would be awesome to be able to leave a legacy like that," she said. "Having your name up on the wall (for program records) for a while would be great, especially after only running for three seasons."