Fort stands out on court, stage

Tyler Dixon | Kentucky New Era

Hopkinsville's Riley Fort is the Toyota of Hopkinsville Southern Pennyrile Girls' Tennis Athlete of the Year.

Whether it be on the stage or the court, Hopkinsville's Riley Fort carries herself a certain way.

Through her many activities and accomplishments, an athlete and an ambassador emerged from the halls of Hopkinsville High School as she now embarks on a new journey at the University of Kentucky.

It's Fort's skills on the court and her ability to lead others that make her the Toyota of Hopkinsville Southern Pennyrile Girls' Tennis Athlete of the Year.

During her final run at the KHSAA State Girls' Tennis Tournament, Fort said it hadn't hit her yet that her prep career was over and that feeling still hadn't set in a couple of weeks removed from her high-school graduation.

"I've been playing since the seventh grade and I know when I come back to watch my sister Allie and the rest of the team next year, I'm going to really wish that I was out there with them," she said.

When asked what she'll remember and miss the most, Fort reflected on the relationships she's made as a Lady Tiger. As a member of the team for six years, she's seen many teammates come and go.

"More than anything, I'm going to remember the friendships that I made with the other girls and the guys on the boy's team," she said. "As well as the relationships I've had with the coaches. The teammates were all so supportive of each other and the coaches are the best I could ever ask for.

"I'm really thankful I got to work with all those people."

Fort, along with Skylar Ray, were the leaders of this year's Lady Tiger team. The duo took a kind of mother hen role with the rest of the squad.

Fort said she learned how to be a leader from former Hoptown standout Zena Maddux.

"I know that I was sort of taken in by the older girls when I was a freshman," she said. "I was the sixth seed so I got to watch all of them and I got to know what it was like to be at that next level.

"I think this year Skylar and I definitely wanted to take in all the younger girls and show them a lot of inclusivity and we were just able to bond really well. I think this was an amazing team overall when it comes to being a great team and being whole."

Fort is the Kentucky representative for Distinguished Young Women, a program that offers scholarships and life skills to women after they graduate high school.

It's her work in that, along with her stage experience, that showed Fort how to carry herself a different way.

"I think through Distinguished Young Women and other platforms that I've heard through Campanile Productions, I've been able to have dignity and grace on the court and I've also been able to talk to other coaches and teammates and just been able to speak in public," she said. "I'm definitely thankful for those skills because I'm not only going to use them in tennis and in school, but forever."

One thing Fort is going to miss next year is the opportunity to be teammates with her sister Allie.

"I've seen so much growth in her this last year," she said. "In tennis, but especially in who she is. It's been really cool to be able to see her as an equal and not so much as a little sister. We're best friends and it's been really, really special to be able to share the court with her this year and see all of her accomplishments."

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