Teen with spina bifida excelling in track and field

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NAVARRE – A Navarre High School track and field athlete is "ready to roll" after receiving an unexpected birthday gift Monday. 

It had been just another day on the oval for 15-year-old Ethan Fulk, who is preparing to compete in the 200-meter run, 800-meter run and shot put in the April 10 district meet.

Ethan, however, is not just another kid. Born with spina bifida — a birth defect that prevents the spine from properly forming — the sports-loving-teen is breaking through barriers as he competes in track and field. 

Monday, Ethan was surprised with a race chair and shot put chair to help him reach his dream of a state championship.

"It was a birthday present from my coach," Ethan said. "I was able to use it yesterday for the first time. It's different to move in, but it's faster."

In past meets, Ethan used a standard wheelchair to compete. Joe Surratt, Navarre High School's track and field coach, said getting the wheelchairs took time.

"This all started last August," Surratt said. "The nonprofit Dixie Games built and donated the chairs to Ethan. These chairs cost thousands of dollars and they have to find parts and build the chairs themselves, so it takes a while to get them." 

Navarre is the only high school in the Panhandle with an adaptive athletic program, according to Surratt. He said the school hopes to promote the program to make other adaptive students across Florida aware of the opportunities available to them.

"Equality is a big deal," Surratt said. "Adaptive students can compete all the way up to the professional level. A lot of people just aren't aware of these opportunities. I kept an eye out for the right person to start this program; Ethan was that person."

As a freshman, Ethan currently holds the top marks in shot put, the 200 and 800 for adaptive students across the state.

"Ethan has been nothing but positive about this whole thing," Surratt said. "At some points it's overwhelming emotionally for him because of all the support he is receiving.

"As a freshman, he's competing at the highest level immediately," he continued. "I'm trying to be there for him, stay beside him and grow with him. I see great things for his future."

For Ethan, he said he's just focused on becoming the best version of himself. 

"I just roll with the flow," Ethan said. "I don't feel different, I feel me. I just try to be the best so I can go to state."

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