Fulk stands tall in face of adversity

November 16, 1996


Daily Mail Sports Editor

Ann Fulk is a competitor, so she wasn't about to let something like surgery to fix a curved spine keep her on the sidelines.

"I knew the operation was necessary, but I also knew that I didn't want it to prevent me from competing in athletics the rest of my life," said Fulk, one of the better players on Williamsport's undefeated volleyball team, which plays this afternoon at 2:30 for its second consecutive Class A state championship. The Wildcats will play Francis Scott Key at Catonsville Community College.

Fulk needed the surgery to correct scoliosis. A team of doctors at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center her no assurances that the operation, on Jan. 20, 1993, would solve her back problems and allow her to compete in athletics.


But Fulk, then an eighth-grader at Springfield Middle School, had other ideas.

"Before the surgery, (Dr. (Charles) Hartjen said I probably couldn't play sports for at least six months, but I was hoping that wouldn't be the case," she said. "I came out of the surgery fine, though, and I asked Mom and Dad to bring me a volleyball at the hospital three days after the surgery. I would set the volleyball while on my back."

Fulk was up and walking in three days and playing basketball in six weeks.

"It was tough. I was out of shape and the running really tired me out," said Fulk, a 17-year-old senior. "I got back in shape pretty quick, though, and I was all right."

Fulk, a setter for the Wildcats, said the determination and perseverance she learned as an athlete helped her tolerate and finally conquer the physical ailment.

Fulk's back problems started in late summer 1991, when she fell five feet out of a tree.

"I thought things would be OK after the soreness went away from the fall, but that didn't happen," she said.

Subsequent X-rays revealed the scoliosis.

"They found that Ann's spine was slowly starting to curve and they recommended a brace," said Belinda Fulk, Ann's mother. "She wore the brace approximately a year, but then surgery was deemed necessary."

"The doctors said that my spine was starting to crush my lungs so I had to have the surgery," Ann Fulk said. "It went well."

She actually grew 2 1/2 inches during the surgery, she said.

Fulk and her family said scoliosis should not discourage anyone from participating in sports.

Ann Fulk started playing soccer in the Hagerstown Area Youth Soccer League in third grade and has played volleyball since sixth grade.

At Williamsport, she played basketball her freshman and sophomore years and ran track as a freshman. She has been a member of the volleyball team all four years - three on the varsity level - and may run track this spring.

But her first love is volleyball. And though she is focused on today's title match, Fulk said she looks forward to playing in college. She's not sure where, though.

"I haven't made a decision yet," she said. "The decision will be difficult because I have many schools I really like."

Her list of includes Hagerstown Junior College, the University of Maryland, Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. and Gettysburg (Pa.) College.

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