Ful­ton tack­les ath­let­ics, aca­demics with de­ter­mi­na­tion

Hear­ing im­pair­ment doesn’t slow down X-Women rugby player

Annapolis Valley Register - - SPORTS - BY COREY LEBLANC SALTWIRE NET­WORK ANTIGO­NISH, NS

Her eyes widen and a smile crosses Clau­dia Ful­ton’s face when she’s asked what she loves the most about rugby.

“Mak­ing a big hit – it pumps ev­ery­one up,” said the sopho­more flanker with the peren­nial pow­er­house St. F.X. X-Women af­ter a re­cent prac­tice.

“Go­ing on a run is fun, but mak­ing a big hit,” she says, her smile get­ting even big­ger, “gets ev­ery­one fired up and makes ev­ery­one work harder.”

Make no mis­take - Ful­ton “loves the con­tact.”

The Ayles­ford na­tive tack­les aca­demics with equal fe­roc­ity. She is an Aca­demic All-Cana­dian who sports a 91 per cent av­er­age in her pro­gram.

“I asked my friends, and they said I should go into engi­neer­ing,” Ful­ton said, not­ing they knew she was “re­ally strong in school, es­pe­cially math and science.”

That peer ad­vice came dur­ing a class at West Kings District High School while she was fill­ing out an ad­mis­sion ap­pli­ca­tion for a re­cruiter from Aca­dia.

“It has been the right one, so far,” Ful­ton said of her post-sec­ondary field of study.

The only draw­back is that she will have to leave St. F.X. – a place she adores – af­ter next year in or­der to com­plete her engi­neer­ing de­gree at Dal­housie Univer­sity in Hal­i­fax.

“That’s the sad part,” Ful­ton said.

‘Chill out’

Ful­ton ex­cels on the field and in the class­room while liv­ing with pro­gres­sive cen­tral neu­ral hear­ing loss.

“It is al­ready get­ting worse,” she said.

Be­cause of the hered­i­tary con­di­tion – her mother, grand­fa­ther, aunt and cousin also have it – Ful­ton has worn hear­ing aids since she was five.

“You have got to deal with it,” she said, not­ing that mak­ing jokes is one of her ap­proaches.

When she started play­ing, Ful­ton tried to wear her hear­ing aids, but they were too eas­ily po­ten­tially dam­aged be­cause of the phys­i­cal­ity of the sport. But she can’t hear without them, which has led to some in­ter­est­ing mo­ments on the field.

“There’s a lot of yelling in­volved,” Ful­ton said, with a laugh.

At times, be­cause she can­not hear any­thing, she has con­tin­ued to play af­ter the whis­tle has blown.

“My team­mates are like ‘chill out, she can’t hear,’” Ful­ton said of how they deal with up­set op­po­nents.

Once they know, her op­po­nents have been great, mak­ing note of her jersey num­ber in case it hap­pened again.

Pas­sion for sports Grow­ing up in the An­napo­lis Val­ley, the el­dest of Sheila and Dan Ful­ton’s three chil­dren, she has al­ways had a “pas­sion” for all sports - “ev­ery­thing that I could (play).” Ful­ton rat­tles off a list of the sports she’s tried, in­clud­ing rugby, base­ball, soc­cer, track and field, soft­ball, vol­ley­ball and bas­ket­ball.

Ful­ton, along with her sib­lings Emma and Ri­ley, who are in Grade 11 and 9 re­spec­tively, were on a com­bined five provin­cial teams this sum­mer.

Off to Antigo­nish

When it was time to se­lect a univer­sity, her “first choice” was UNB, but that changed af­ter her visit to the St. F.X. cam­pus.

“I just re­ally loved it – and here I am. I wouldn’t change it – it is the best de­ci­sion that I have ever made,” she added.

The stu­dent-ath­lete also took ad­vice from her provin­cial coach and tried out for the X-Women. Ful­ton not only made the cut with rugby XWomen, but she also suited up for the St. F.X. bas­ket­ball team in the sec­ond half of her fresh­man sea­son.

Ful­ton started train­ing camp with the bas­ket­ball team, but the new X-Women coach­ing staff thought she “might be too far be­hind” once she tried to make the tran­si­tion af­ter the rugby sea­son.

Big goal

When she heads to Hal­i­fax to con­tinue her stud­ies, Ful­ton will fo­cus on me­chan­i­cal engi­neer­ing at Dal.

“Some­times, I think I know ex­actly what I am go­ing to do and then I think of some­thing else and say ‘maybe I want to do that,’” Ful­ton said when asked about her ca­reer as­pi­ra­tions af­ter grad­u­a­tion.

As for de­vel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy “to try to fix (her hear­ing loss),” she added, with a smile, “I might as well try.”

Not­ing there is cur­rent tech­nol­ogy, such as cochlear im­plants, Ful­ton said her tar­get is cre­at­ing “some­thing smaller.”

“Some­thing that is not as no­tice­able,” she added.

‘Pretty cool’

Be­fore that hap­pens, Ful­ton’s more im­me­di­ate fo­cus is help­ing the X-Women cap­ture the fifth na­tional cham­pi­onship in pro­gram his­tory.

Hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to win the crown in her back­yard - Aca­dia is set to host the U Sports cham­pi­onship tour­na­ment in early Novem­ber - is “pretty cool.

“Hope­fully, it will hap­pen.”

COREY LEBLANC PHOTO

Sheila and Dan Ful­ton of­ten make the drive from the An­napo­lis Val­ley to Antigo­nish to watch their daugh­ter, Clau­dia, play for the St. F.X. X-Women rugby team.

COREY LEBLANC PHOTO

Clau­dia Ful­ton, a na­tive of Ayles­ford, is a sopho­more flanker with the St. F.X. X-Women rugby team, a peren­nial power in U Sports com­pe­ti­tion.

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