Sam Horning is ready to start the next chapter of his life and athletics career, but before he does, it's hard not to reflect on everything that's happened to him in the past two years.
Horning starred in both lacrosse and hockey at Palmer, overcoming a broken leg during his sophomore year and eventually becoming one of the best players in both sports as a senior.
"Sam is a blue collar, lunch pail kind of guy," Palmer lacrosse coach Sequoia Bowan said. "Being one of only two returning seniors, I put him into the role of vocal leader and wanted him to grow into the role and lead the team in the huddle and on the field. He did really well with it and took the bull by the horns."
This season, Horning scored 34 goals and added 20 assists to lead the Terrors to an 11-5 record and a berth in the 16-team 5A state tournament, earning him The Gazette's Peak Performer of the Year honor for boys' lacrosse.
After Palmer produced a combined record of 13-17 the two previous seasons, it was a huge accomplishment for Horning and his teammates to make the playoffs.
"It was very important for us to have a good season, and ending on a high note was great," said Horning, who was selected second team all-state. "We had a season we weren't necessarily expecting, and it was a big step for the program and I'm really happy I was a part of it. This sophomore class is the best we've had and they've helped us change a lot."
Horning didn't just fill the net in lacrosse his senior season. He was third in the state in hockey goals with 23, but says lacrosse has always been his first love.
When the stakes were the highest, Horning was at his best. His two biggest games of the season came when he scored six goals in 13-12 wins over both Highlands Ranch and Air Academy.
"He scored the game-winner in overtime to beat Air Academy, which was the first time in school history we beat them," Bowan said. "He's very unselfish and had one of the highest assist totals of any midfielder in the league and wasn't a ball hog. At the end of the game, he always showed up for us and took the big shot."
Horning says he loved the high-pressure situations, and always wanted to have the ball in his control to help his team to victory.
"I loved those moments; I've always seen people come through in the clutch growing up, and I wanted to be that person," he said. "I enjoyed the pressure of it and I liked having an impact on the game and helping my team out."
Horning will play for Division-II Wheeling Jesuit (W.Va.) next year, and his high school coach thinks he'll be just fine.
"Two things that Sam has going for him is a great shot - he was equally strong going left-handed or right-handed - and his first step to get separation from an opponent is the best I saw all year," Bowan said. "He's not a big guy, but has quickness and determination, and has a natural lacrosse IQ."
"I'm super excited for college, and ready to start a new chapter," Horning added. "I enjoyed being a leader on this team. I don't have a younger brother, but I consider the guys I played with my younger brothers, and I enjoyed helping them grow in lacrosse and in life."