Rebecca Fortner discusses passion for sports and dreams

Ian Tanaya Apr 16, 2017

Carnival, the time when Carnegie Mellon students take part in the quirky traditions of constructing themed booths, racing their self-constructed buggies, and showing off their mobile robots in the Mobot Races, is almost upon us. While most of campus either partakes in these weirdly fun pastimes, works on semester projects of various degrees of completion, or takes the opportunity to have a good night’s sleep, senior hurdler and jumper Rebecca Fortner will instead travel with the women’s track and field team to the 2017 University Athletic Association (UAA) Outdoor Championships, hosted this year by the University of Chicago.

The passion that the chemical and biomedical engineering double major has for her craft is evident from her focus on the competition. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Fortner said when asked about going to the championships while much of the rest of campus is partaking in Carnival.
Her commitment to the team is her biggest enjoyment, stemming from a life invested in sports. “My family is very athletic. My dad was a football coach, played football, and ran track. My mom was also into basketball. My sister was into cheerleading and gymnastics.” With a family like that, it’s no wonder that Fortner got involved in athletics early and often. “I got into a lot of things from gymnastics to cheerleading, basketball to track.”

It was during high school that Fortner realized which sport she wanted to focus her full effort on. “After I hit my growth spurt, I made a state championship in track and got serious with it.” Her results in the sport gave her the confidence to plan on continuing the sport in college. “I thought I would be able to compete in college.”

It was the combination of the academic and athletic programs that attracted Fortner to Carnegie Mellon. “Track was a big part of why I chose here, but the opportunity to double major was really huge too. Graduating from here will be a pretty big deal. My family is all from smaller schools and colleges, so being able to graduate from somewhere like Carnegie Mellon is such a huge deal.”

It certainly isn’t easy with a schedule that starts punching the moment the spring semester starts. “Spring semester, our first track meet is the first week we come back, and we go throughout the whole semester. You have to make sure you get as much sleep as you can, eat healthy, etc.” Time with the team, of course, is not always just about track and field. “Friday nights we all get together and watch a movie or something so we’re not too tired on Saturday.” When it comes time to compete, it’s all about following the fundamentals and supporting one another. “We all have our separate routines. High jumpers will measure steps, practice together. We all help each other during the meet.”

Fortner doesn’t take any of her opportunities for granted. “I feel like just being able to compete at a college level is pretty significant.” Her hard-working mentality has steeled her and helped her earn second place in the high jump at the 2013–14 UAA Indoor Championships and the 2015–16 UAA Indoor Championships. “That was really awesome.”

Looking ahead, Fortner is eager to get working for a good cause, leveraging her knowledge and dedication toward helping as many people as she can. “I want to go into pharmaceuticals, anything to help people.”