Always in her thoughts

For North Harford's Marley Welsh, success in lacrosse is tempered by the loss of her mother to breast cancer.


As Marley Welsh celebrated with her North Harford teammates last week after they finally defeated county rival C. Milton Wright in lacrosse, she couldn't help but notice there was someone missing in the stands - her mother.

Welsh, a junior midfielder, lost her mother to breast cancer in July 2004.

"After the game I thought about her and knew she would have liked to be there," said Welsh, who scored a goal in the win. "She knew C. Milton Wright was a big rival. She always thought our team was good enough to beat them."

With a 10-9 victory over the Mustangs, the Hawks (6-0) ended C. Milton Wright's 60-game winning streak over county opponents. It was a feat that No. 12 North Harford had been trying to accomplish for more than three years.

"I can see this big smile on her mom's face and I can see her approaching Marley with just the biggest hug and saying, `You guys finally did it. You finally got the monkey off your backs,' " North Harford coach Greg Murrell said.

Rose Mary Welsh was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2001. After about nine months in remission and several surgeries, she found out in early 2002 that the cancer had spread to her lungs.

"It got really bad the last couple of months," said Jackalin Brohart, Welsh's teammate and best friend. "We were on our club lacrosse team and [Marley] would still come out every day and play her hardest. I would never be able to do that with everything that was happening."

"It's still a little tender yet, but we all miss her," said Michael Welsh, Marley's father. "It's good to talk about it. [Marley] probably got through this better than I did."

A lot of that could be attributed to Brohart. The two have known each other since kindergarten and having her around those last few months was a comfort to Welsh.

"She made it easier," Welsh said. "I didn't have to be by myself. She was at my house every single night because I didn't know if that was going to be the night. I had denial for it for a while, but when she was there it took my mind off things. She knew my mom the best out of all my friends."

Murrell not only has witnessed their connection on the lacrosse field, but in school as well.

"You always see them in the halls together. As much as Jackalin and Marley were close, it was good they had each other because Jackalin was there through so much and it's nice they could rely on each other in that way," Murrell said.

Sports and singing also provided an escape for Welsh. Welsh is a guard on the North Harford basketball team and an attack wing on the field hockey squad.

"I think it kept her mind off of her mother for a while," said Michael Welsh, a golf professional at Towson Golf and Country Club. "It can be a debilitating thing for a family. Rosie didn't want it that way. She didn't want to die and her biggest fear was not being there."

Marley Welsh is an accomplished singer. She is in the a cappella choir and made the All-County and All-State choruses.

Welsh is also one of her school's eight-member performance group, the Magicals. She was selected to the American Choral Direction Association Eastern Division choir her freshman year.

"I know that when I have a performance, whether it's at school or it's singing the national anthem at a basketball or football game, I think about my mom before I go on and about how she is watching me," Welsh said.

Before Rose Mary died, she kept a journal of her feelings and what she wanted for Welsh and her older sister, Amanda. She also made a poster with a collage of pictures of herself when she was younger and pictures of the four of them. Those keepsakes are a few of the strongest links Welsh has to her mother.

"Usually when I am not around people and I start thinking about it, that's when I really get upset," Welsh said. "She just wrote in there how she wanted to be there for all the milestones in our lives."

For Michael Welsh, the similarities are endless between Welsh and her mother.

"Rosie was a really strong-willed person and [Marley is] exactly like her mother. When she got an opinion on something, she was very, very strong, and that's what I see in Marley. She looks like her mother, her hair and her face. Rosie really was the one who started her in music and basketball and all the sports," he said.

Welsh's strong will is what gives her an edge in sports.

"She's so determined," Murrell said. "She's so competitive. Whether it's with her basketball, her field hockey or her singing, she wants to be the best. The biggest thing for Marley is her athleticism. She has great speed, good strength and size. She has the stick skills to back it up."

In three years on varsity, she has 25 goals, eight assists, 43 ground balls, 27 draw controls and six forced turnovers.

Welsh hopes to continue her lacrosse career at the Division I college level. James Madison, Princeton, Penn State and North Carolina have shown interest.

Wherever she decides to go, Welsh will have her mother on her mind.

"It makes me upset to think about the fact that she's not there, but then it makes me want to try harder because I know that is what she would have wanted," Welsh said.

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