When Rosemount senior Austin Eliason was a freshman he had to make a difficult decision that would affect the next four years of his life.
Eliason had played soccer as long as he could remember. But several friends were trying to influence him to play football for the Irish.
"It was a tough year for me in soccer," Eliason recalled this week. "I was not really feeling good about it, from the standpoint that I thought I should have been on varsity. I was one of those borderline guys and didn't make it."
After wrestling with the decision, Eliason stayed with soccer. As a sophomore he made the varsity squad and was part of a state tournament-qualifying team. He has been an integral member of the boys soccer team for the past three years.
Eliason also has been on the Rosemount boys track and field team since he was a freshman.
Adding to a stellar career with strong senior seasons for the soccer and track and field teams, Eliason has been named the Town Pages Male Athlete of the Year.
Irish boys soccer coach Mike Floersch believes the decision Eliason made as a frustrated ninth-grader exemplifies why he has earned this year's award.
"The athleticism is a given," Floersch said. "He does his job. It's his effort, but more than that, he's coachable. He's a leader by example on and off the field.
"For me, it's also the fact that he had a chance to play football and decided to stick it out and play soccer. As a head coach, you look back at someone like that who had a choice and even when we didn't have the strongest team, he was there and really stepped up.
"He can be proud of what he accomplished. Being a leader isn't always about wins and losses. He gave it all he could. He never quit and he pushed every single game."
He finished this season as one of the team's most valuable players, and was an all-conference selection.
"I honestly think he was an all-state player. Unfortunately I think our record didn't allow him to get the recognition he deserved," Floersch said.
Things came a little easier for Eliason in track.
He was the rare freshman to compete on the varsity team and has been a part of a state championship. He is one of the top sprinters in the state this season.
"Austin obviously has talent," Rosemount boys track and field coach Jay Hatleli said. "He also has a very high athletic IQ. He has a knack for elevating his performance to the level of the competition, and to match the significance of the moment.
"We would not have achieved the team successes we've had over the last three years without him."
His personal success in track has allowed Eliason to continue running after high school.
He has earned a scholarship to Minnesota State University-Mankato, and will compete during the indoor and outdoor seasons as a sprinter for the Mavericks.
Eliason was surprised to win the Town Pages Male Athlete of the year. He didn't expect his two-sport career to earn the award
"I didn't play three sports," Eliason said. "Usually it goes to three-sport athletes. It means something, and it shows all the hard work has paid off, all the summer training for soccer and then all the winter training for track. I didn't think people noticed all the work I put in, and this shows that they did."