Welch helps drive the Firebirds with her passion and hustle

Welch helps drive the Firebirds with her passion and hustle

Photo: Lindsey Breslin and Sam Barton

Senior Chelsea Welch brings the ball up the court against Miamisburg.

By Jared Bergstrom, Sports Writer

Students who never missed a day of school get perfect attendance awards. But what award would you give to an athlete who has never missed a game in her high school career? In fact, senior basketball player Chelsea Welch has not only shown up, she’s started all 98 games she’s played at Fairmont as of Jan. 28, 2013.

Along with starting 98 games, Welch also has managed 1,302 career points, 448 rebounds, 360 assists, and 270 steals. She owns the Fairmont record for most assists in a game (12), most steals in a game (8), and most steals in a season (84). Needless to say, she’s active on the court.

Kids who play competitive sports in high school normally have made that sport a top priority throughout their life, and Welch is no exception. She’s been playing the sport she loves since she was 3 years old.

Although Welch has played hard and excelled at her sport since she was small, it’s taken on special importance now that she’s in her last year of high school. “It’s my passion,” Welch said. “I enjoy playing, and if I could play basketball 24/7, I would.”

Playing the sport has taught her many valuable lessons that can’t be measured through a stat sheet. “Basketball has taught me to work hard as a team player,” Welch said. “Leadership is another key thing that I have learned while playing basketball.”

Welch says she has played other sports over the years, but nothing has really resonated with her like basketball. “Now, I’m not saying anything bad about any other sports,” Welch said. “I tried a lot of sports when I was younger, but I was the best at basketball. I was introduced to basketball at such a young age by my dad, and basketball has been my life since then.”

The Firebird Girls’ Basketball team has been a powerhouse for years. The girls have made it to State the past three years and finished as the runner-up the past two years. This year, the Firebirds have been ranked as high as 6th in the nation by USA Today.

As a star player on the team, Welch would be expected to have significant memories. “My most memorable moment would be getting my 1,000th career point as a junior,” she said. Welch also reminisced on her least memorable moment. “Losing in the state championship game last year to Twinsburg was one of my least favorable memories.”

Welch has earned many other accolades during her high school career. As a freshman, she was named to the 1st Team GWOC Central and the 1st Team for Division 1 in the Ohio State Tournament. In her sophomore year, she made the 1st Team Southwest District; the All District 15; and 1st Team GWOC. As a junior, she was named a District 15 All-Star, as well as being named to the 3rd Team All Southwest District and 1st Team GWOC.

In addition to her school basketball experience, Welch has played AAU basketball for years. Next year, she will play college basketball as a member of the Lady Dukes of Duquesne.

Being a high-profile player on one of the best teams in the country must present a lot of pressure, but Welch says she finds it easy to stay calm. “I’ve played varsity for four years and I’m used to the big games and environments,” she said. For example, when the schedule comes out, Welch circles the Centerville games. “I look forward to playing Centerville because it’s a rivalry game and always fun to play.”

Sometimes when people think of success in sports, they look only toward the professional or collegiate athletes. But Welch and her talented teammates have brought a lot of attention to girls’ high school basketball. Welch is as proud of that accomplishment as any other.

“It feels great,” she said. “I love that I feel like I’m a part of something great at Fairmont and that I’m giving back to the school.”

As Welch’s high school career winds to a close, she looks back on what basketball has given her. “Playing basketball is amazing,” she said. “With the success that the team has had, it makes me more excited to try to go further.”