Athlete of the Decade contest heats up: Voting has officially begun for the Gustie Athlete of the Decade

It’s been a tough week of competition for some of the most accomplished Gustie athletes of the last decade, full of landslides and close calls. However, unlike the competitions these athletes excelled in to earn their prestige, the winner of this competition is decided by the votes of their peers. The first round of voting for the Gustavus Student-Athlete of the Decade bracket occurred last week on Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 16–17), bringing several players, including three current Gustavus student-athletes, one step closer to being crowned champion. Senior Track and Field athlete Taylor Rooney, a three-time All-American, eight-time MIAC champion and Gustavus record holder in two events, was humbled by the nomination.
“I was honored. I had no idea until… the second day of the first voting, some people had started sending it to me. It’s a really big honor, and it’s really humbling to be a part of,” Rooney said.
As herculean as these accomplishments seem, behind every nominee for the Athlete of the Decade are outstanding teams, teammates and mentors.
Rooney recounts his first trip to the NCAA DIII Indoor Championships in 2018 as a first-year, as well as the mentorship of his fellow Athlete of the Decade nominee.
“My [first] year, when I went to Nationals, it was a really cool experience overall to just be able to go… [and] for Michael Hensch [‘21] to just take me under his wing, calm me down through it all, as I’m freaking out, as I’m, like, ‘what is even going on, this is a giant stadium, everyone here is so good.’ Never having a race like this before, having him to just be there for me and just really showing how it is to be a Gustie and a teammate… that’s just really cool,” Rooney said.
Another program that is well represented in this week’s bracket is Football, with five players, including a current student-athlete, moving on to round two.
“Football’s a really big team sport… My success is credited to all the people around me, and my favorite part about that is when it is working well, when everyone is doing their job, when a play comes together… it’s a lot of fun[…]The competitive spirit… that doesn’t change. [I’m looking forward to] just getting back to some sort of normalcy and getting our guys back together as a whole unit.”
Despite the different skill sets and backgrounds brought by athletes of each of the sports in this myriad, it seems like all of the Athlete of the Decade contenders have one thing in common.
“An open-minded attitude to the work that needs to be put in, [and] just that belief that they can attain the goals that we’re putting out there,” Track & Field Mid-Distance Coach Becki Staley, said about what separates a good athlete from a great one.
Staley coached Track and Field athlete and contender Tierney Winter (‘20) and was there for her All-American honors in Track & Field and Cross Country, three school records and the 2019-20 Gustavus Female Athlete of the Year title).
“I remember we were up there [a 2020 indoor Track and Field invitational at Minnesota State University, Mankato] and I think she was going after a possible school record… she came over…and she was like, ‘just hold on one second’ and what she was doing was running and cheering for another girl that was trying to get one of her personal goals, and that’s just… that’s Tierney, all day long, ” Staley said.
Voting for the second round of the contest commenced on Monday, Sept. 21, and fans can vote on Facebook (Gustavus Athletics) or Twitter (@GustieAthletics) through Wednesday, Sept. 23.