Favorite athlete: Usain Bolt
Favorite team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Favorite memory competing in sports: My favorite memory was freshman year, competing for North’s 4x200 relay with my senior brother, Chris, at the PA Indoor State Track Meet
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: While kicking a field goal my sophomore year, the ball was a direct drive into a lineman’s back.
Music on mobile device: Rap
Future plans: Attend college and compete in either track or football at the collegiate level. Currently being recruited D1 track and field.
Words to live by: “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”
One goal before turning 30: Run a half marathon.
One thing people don’t know about me: I’m a talented artist.
By GORDON GLANTZ
Council Rock North senior Michael Welde – although not wanting to sound like a braggart – admits he inherited the family skill of being a “talented” artist.
“Yeah, I am,” he said. “It kind of runs in the family – my brother, and my dad, too.”
For Welde, whose work has appeared at art shows, his niche is drawing portraits of people.
“I try to make it as real as possible,” he continued. “I enjoy challenges, so it makes it interesting.”
Welde has taken the interest in facing challenges into the sports realm as a football player each fall and a sprinter come winter and spring.
Through it all, he challenges himself academically – and in the school community – and now finds himself with exciting choices to continue on as a student-athlete on the collegiate level.
Coming off a junior year in which he set five individual school records and two relay records while earning two state medals in the winter (fourth in the 400 and 400 relay) and another in the spring (sixth in the 400), along with an academic scorecard that shows a 4.1 weighted GPA and a 33 ACT score, opportunity knocks loudly.
He said his parents, Joel and Michelle, are to be credited.
“I wish I could say it came naturally, but my parents are firm believers that you have to have that balance,” said Welde, a member of the National Honor Society, as well as the Math and Social Studies NHS. “They definitely helped me to become the student-athlete that I am.”
Schools seeking his services – as a track athlete -- include Penn, Cornell, St. Joseph’s, Lehigh and Villanova.
Football offers for the 5-6, 160-pounder -- who aspires to a career in the business realm, like in accounting or finance -- are also starting to come. This, as Welde carries the rock for upwards of 20 times per game and is finding a way to stand out for a team that has struggled through five games, at 1-4.
“I’m open-minded to both,” he said. “I want to play both in college. A few colleges have reached out (about football), it’s just that I don’t have a lot of interest in those particular schools.”
Putting himself in position to find the best situation, via his well-rounded resume, is part of a larger lesson he tries to share with younger teammates and the freshmen he encounters heading the Rock Ambassadors club.
“I definitely try to show that,” said Welde. “I’m always pushing grades to everyone on the football team. Grades are important. If they get to play in college, college is still a school. If you don’t have the grades, it’s kind of a shame. It’s definitely something I try to teach.”
But Welde is not just on the lecture circuit.
When it comes to work habits on the practice field, he sees the need to lead by example, which often means putting his fellow running backs through some drills before the coaches have even found their way to the field.
“It’s just something I do,” said Welde, who “started late” as a football player – in seventh grade. “You need to put in the time to get better. If I can, I put in the extra time to help the team. The other running backs will come to me, so we will practice any drills we can work on before practice starts.”
Welde has other reasons, more personal ones, for pushing himself in practice.
He has realized the value of having himself in prime condition after one of the tiniest of pests on the planet – a tick carrying Lyme disease – led to a tough season when he was a sophomore.
After playing on the freshman team, Welde had big plans for himself as a sophomore and bulked up accordingly.
But then, right before two-a-days, the Lyme diagnosis came, leaving the sprinter with a hurdle to clear.
“I lifted all summer, gained weight,” he recalled. “I lost 10-15 pounds. Everything I worked for just kind of went away.”
But what didn’t go away was his asthma. The Lyme disease makes his attacks more acute.
“It affected (the asthma) a lot worse,” he said, “so I also had to overcome that.”
While he ran track in the winter and spring, Welde didn’t really feel like himself again until last football season, when he got the bulk of the carries and then carried it over to his success in winter and spring track that he hopes to build on as a senior.
In addition to aiming for breaking some indoor records set by his brother, Chris, who is now a scout-team slot receiver for Penn State, Welde is looking to improve his own numbers.
“Hopefully, I will break those,” he said of his own records. “And I want to finish higher in the state.”
Welde says he still has lingering effects of the Lyme disease, but he has learned to fight back with changes in diet – he learned he is allergic to peanut butter and milk and started eating organically -- and relentless training.
“That’s why I push so much in practice,” he said, taking his weekly workload of 20-plus totes into account. “I’m used to the level that I need, and I don’t like to think that I ever need to come off the field.”
Because of his training regimen, Welde says that the adjustment from getting tackled all football season to sprinting in track has never really been an issue.
He added: “You are sore and everything, but I am also excited about track starting and I never really had any major problems.”
Leading Through Adversity
Welde is no different than any other football player entering his senior year. He wants to go out with a championship.
While that dream is pretty much gone, he is still positive about the rest of the season.
“You have to go into every game with the mindset of winning,” he said, adding a common script has been to stay close through most of the first half before fading away.
“I’m trying to stay positive. We still have half the season to go. We’re not going to hang our heads. You always want to think that your senior season is going to be the year. It’s not been case, but I haven’t taken the time to sit back and think about it yet. We’re going to take one week at a time.”
This is a team when peer leadership, the kind provided by Welde, becomes vital.
He relishes the opportunity.
“Yeah, I do,” said Welde. “Even in school, I’m a leader in a lot of clubs. “People follow when you are leading by example, and I just give 110 percent. I’m not big on preaching or pinpointing one person. I’m not into scapegoating anyone.
“Out of the captains, I’m the least vocal. I just tell the team to keep working hard and things will go our way.”
That leadership is not lost on his coach, Matt McHugh.
“An example of his leadership is that every day at pre-practice as the coaches are walking up to practice we take notice that Michael has the younger (running backs) working on their steps and completing drills before the coaches even get up to the practice field,” he said. “He thoroughly enjoys being a leader and helping the younger players get better. This does not only apply to the field. During freshman orientation day, you can find Michael walking the new students around helping them get accustomed to the building.”
In addition to his parents, Welde points to his sister, Brittany, and brother, Chris, as major inspirations.
While Chris starred in football and track at Council Rock North before earning a scout team spot at Penn State – forcing dad, who played college football at Dayton and was a lifelong Ohio State devotee to reluctantly don Penn State apparel – Brittany, the eldest, is a senior at St. Joe’s.
Also an asthma sufferer, she gave up sports while in high school.
“My whole family has had a remarkable impact on me and how I live my life,” said Welde. “My brother and sister set the bar incredibly high, academically. My brother always pushed to get better all the time, athletically, and break his records. They are all very supportive.
“I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.”
Welde also pointed to several coaches.
There is indoor track coach Rich Hoffman, who convinced him to do outdoor track – instead of baseball, which he played as a freshman.
Running spring track, Welde came into the orbit of outdoor coach Rich Loughran, who he says is “almost like a father figure.”
Welde also pointed McHugh for his faith in his abilities.
“Coach McHugh has been very motivating,” said Welde. “He pushes me to be the best I can be, on and off the field.”
McHugh can’t say enough about his go-to back who he called a “true student-athlete.”
“His work ethic is demonstrated through his 4.0-plus average in the classroom,” the Indians’ coach said. “His dedication to the school is shown through his presidency of the Student Executive Board and many other clubs.
“Michael has been carrying the load for us at the (running back) position. He has carried the ball more than 20-plus times a game and has been producing 100-yard games in what has been a tough season for our Indians thus far. He is a captain for our program, and the players rally around him when things have not gone so well for us. He is a tremendous leader, respectful, and what I find most important, a coachable football player. I cannot wait to see what his future has in store for him.”