blind track athlete inspires during his time at Posen High School | News, Sports, Jobs

Courtesy Photo/Almost Isle Advance Posen High School Leah Themel, left, runs with Selinay Erkul during a track meet this spring. Erkul, an exchange student from Turkey, is blind but has competed in a few different track events over the year for Posen. Themel often ran with Erkul, serving as a runner guide where she held one end of the rope and helped direct Erkul where to go during a run.

ALPENA — Having a disability has never let Selinay Erkul shy away from a challenge.

Erkul, an 18-year-old from Izmir, Turkey, is blind and recently spent the 2021-22 school year as an international student at Posen High School.

Leaving home to live in a new country, a new city and having new challenges can be daunting. But in Posen, Erkul found a supportive community, new friends and an appreciation for a sport she had never tried before.

Along the way, she has inspired her teammates, coaches and many others with her positive attitude and willingness to challenge herself.

“You never know what you don’t know, so live in the moment and try to do your best,” Erkul said. “Challenge yourself and your world. That’s what I did and I liked it. »

News Photo by James Andersen In a recent video call, Selinay Erkul shows off a plaque she received from Posen High School in commemoration of her time competing in track and field.

In Izmir, located in western Turkey near Greece, Erkul likes to stay active and wanted to do the same in Posen. Since athletics was the most accessible sport for her, she decided to give it a try.

“It was actually the first experience I had in my life,” Erkul said. “We have basketball, softball and baseball, those kinds of sports, but I had never heard of athletics.”

Within the athletics team, Erkul found a new world of opportunities, which allowed her to compete, stay active and socialize more within a team. As her teammates got to know her, they asked about her life experiences and warmed up to her even more.

“I became more social than I have all year. I really loved being on the right track and being able to spend more time with people,” she said. “I could easily tell that when I was trying to reach out to try to learn the track, the community started talking about it like, ‘Wow, how does a blind person do that?’ I was getting excited and I was so happy because these people were the ones trying to help you through most things.The community I was in was really supportive.

Posen coach Tammy Hincka and her team were tasked with finding the best fit for Erkul, and she eventually competed in the 100 meters and the shot put.

Courtesy photo Selinay Erkul, center, is pictured with her Posen teammates and shot putters Samantha Szott, left, and Sofya Hincka. Erkul competed in the shot put several times during the season and credited Posen’s coaches and teammates for helping her learn the intricacies of the event.

The shot put can be a very technical event, but Erkul was open to learning. She worked with assistant coach Iziaiah Hincka, who taught Erkul the landing zone, baseboard throwers and how to throw. When she threw, Erkul had a teammate in front of her talking to her so she could throw in the direction of her teammate’s voice.

“There was always someone from my team helping me with their voice so I could throw my ball in the right direction,” Erkul said.

To participate in the 100 meters, Erkul had to run with a guide. During a run, each runner holds one end of a guide rope with the guide runner leading. Participating in the event required good communication since Erkul went where his guide-runner went. Erkul had a few different running partners over the season, but she was often paired up with senior Leah Themel, who took Erkul under her wing.

“She was so patient and positive, and I know she made Selinay’s experience even better,” Tammy Hincka said. “She’s always been like that.”

A personal highlight for Erkul came towards the end of the season at the almost Isle County annual meet in Posen. Erkul competed in the 100 meters, 200 meters, shot put, and 4×100 mixed throw relay, finishing with three medals for his efforts.

Photo courtesy Selinay Erkul, left, throws the shot put during a meet. At the annual Près Isle meet in Posen, Erkul competed in four events including the shot put and 4×100 mixed throwers relay and won three medals for his efforts.

“I think she really had fun and had a great experience,” Tammy Hincka said. “She was a good listener and she would understand. I think Selinay has sometimes been an inspiration.

Over the course of the season, Erkul has focused on her efforts and improved from game to game.

“My only goal was to be able to do my best. I was trying to be a role model for my community, but at the same time I had to prove to my team that I also had to improve,” Erkul said. “I didn’t compare myself to anyone, which I usually do. When I got my PR, they were really happy.

While participating in sports and enjoying the camaraderie of her teammates, Erkul said she learned a lot about herself during her time at Michigan. Being a foreign student has allowed her to see a different part of the world, become more comfortable traveling alone and improve her navigation, she said.

She’s had a full Northeast Michigan experience, including attending the Alpena County Fair, experiencing a Michigan winter, sledding on snowy days, and experiencing life on a farm with her foster family, the Lucases, with whom she remains in contact.

“My host family was amazing too. I never thought that I could have another family other than my biological family, but it was really a very good family for me,” Erkul said. “When I had challenges, they were the ones who helped me. They were really, really open-minded and very supportive. I love them so much.”

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