All successful programs offer stories involving the individual successes of their teams. Most are reported with reference to the star athletes on the team. While the Truckee cross-country team has had great success this fall as it prepares for the Northern Division I-A regional meet this Friday, it is the story of sophomore Michaela Welch that helps keeps them focused as the season winds down.
Welch's road to regionals is far different than most of can relate to. She was diagnosed at age 3 with cerebral palsy. This is a disorder caused by lack of oxygen to the brain around birth. It affects muscle tone, movement and motor skills. She also has bi-lateral hearing loss. One would think there would be little chance of competing on a cross-country team that races over a 5-kilometer distance most weeks. Not the case with Welch.
From the age of 5 when she defied odds and taught herself how to ride a bike, determination and spirit to succeed has driven Welch. She not only puts in the effort at all practices, but has to follow that up with nightly physical therapy sessions while most are having dinner and thinking about their homework.
Senior Ruby Wood says of her teammate: "When I really am feeling off and don't want to be out there, I look at Michaela and the effort she is putting in and realize that I can keep going."
That effort has enabled Welch to improve by 1 minute and 30 seconds per mile this season, and earn her first individual medal at the Retro Relays in South Lake Tahoe earlier this season. Most importantly, she has earned her spot on the varsity team that is co-favored to win the regional meet (with Elko) this Friday. The top three teams advance to the state meet in Boulder City the following week.
"Michaela has improved dramatically due to an incredible work ethic that will continue to bring her success going forward," said Truckee cross-country coach Pat Matava. "The team has embraced her as a fellow teammate and competitor."
The regional meet will be held at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno on Friday. The boys race at 10:40 a.m. and the girls at 1:10 p.m.