Ross Milhiser, of Reisterstown, certainly ended his high school career with a bang.
The 18-year-old Franklin High School alumnus finished out his time as a defense for the school's varsity lacrosse team by being named to the 2015 U.S. Lacrosse Boys' High School All-Academic List.
His achievement marked the first time an FHS player has earned that distinction since 1992, according to Joe Finn, of US Lacrosse.
"Being an Academic All-American is a huge deal in Baltimore County. Very many young men make a goal to receive this award every single year. To be awarded as an Academic All-American, individuals need to be extremely dedicated to their education from the time they are freshmen," Joe Madigan, who has served as head coach for the FHS varsity lacrosse team since 2008, wrote in an email.
For Milhiser, the 2015 varsity lacrosse team captain, the award serves as the culmination of years of hard work.
"It was a really good accomplishment … it's a good show of all the work I put in," he said.
Dana Milhiser, Ross' mom, said she is "thrilled" to see him receive recognition.
"He has worked so hard his entire high school career. To see him get recognized that way in the sport of lacrosse — as a parent it makes us very, very proud," she said.
Milhiser started playing lacrosse six years ago. His dad, Ryan Milhiser, who played lacrosse and baseball in high school, first introduced Ross to baseball.
"He played baseball [but] baseball wasn't his sport and he really seemed to feel that … but once he got to lacrosse and he realized he liked it, his first year was a really learning year; his second year he developed so much and he realized he was good at it. So I didn't care what he did along following [in my footsteps]; it was more a matter of watching him excel and feel good about how well he was doing," Ryan said.
Dana said her son's love of lacrosse seemed to come naturally.
"Once he started playing lacrosse, he knew he had found his sport," she said.
But Ross said his skill in the game didn't always match his passion for it.
"When I first started I was horrible. I had to work a lot for it," he said. "I spent a lot of time in the weight room, spent a lot of time playing wall ball … spent a lot of time shooting … Doing that, you do it over and over again, you're eventually going to get good at it."
And get good he did.
"When it comes to game awareness and intelligence he's definitely one of the best [I've coached] and he's one of the best defenders that we've had," Madigan said.
For Ross, the game has always been more about having fun than earning accolades.
"I like everything [about lacrosse]. That's cliché but it's a great way to go out and have fun with your friends. I don't look at the game as I have to be the best or I need to win … lacrosse is more like a have-fun game," he said.
But there's more to Ross than just lacrosse. This fall, he started as a freshman at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and while he will be playing lacrosse there, his primary focus will be academics.
"As of right now I'm pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering with a minor in physics, specifically astrophysics. I want to go into space exploration — rocket science," he said.
Ross graduated in the top 2 percent of his class, Dana said, and was in the top 10 among almost 400 students.
"He graduated with — I believe — 12 AP credits, so he's one credit short of going in as a sophomore at Georgia Tech. He's a smart kid," she said.
He was awarded the AP Scholar with Distinction Award by College Board "in recognition of exemplary college-level achievement on Advanced Placement program examinations" Aug. 9, 2014, and Aug. 12, 2015.
He served as the 2015 president of the FHS National Honor Society and, in May, received recognition for earning the principal's list for 15 quarters in high school.
It's his dedication and desire to better himself that has earned him the success he enjoys now, Dana said.
"He's very determined. He has a great work ethic. A lot of times he would be home on a Saturday night when his friends were out partying and he would be home studying and preparing for the week that was coming and he really likes to excel academically. He really drives himself hard and I really like that about him; he has a tremendous work ethic," she said.
Dana and Ryan are Ross' biggest supporters. The couple, who also has another son, Matthew, 15, made a point to be at all of Ross' games since he started playing lacrosse. Ryan recorded them for the school and Dana watched from the stands.
"They make an effort to be at every single one of my games that they can be at," Ross said.
And they don't plan on stopping just because he'll be attending school in Georgia. Whenever he plays a local game, Dana said, she and her husband will try to be there.
But going from attending every game to just a few will be an adjustment for the mom who said "it was always a joy to watch him play."
"I will miss it dearly. Atlanta's not that close," she said.
Ross said his advice to incoming high school freshman lacrosse players is to "hit your weight room and listen to your coach."
"Working hard can only take you so far. You have to have someone telling you what to do," he said.
Dana and Ryan said they're proud of their son's accomplishments, both on the field and off. But, Ryan said, no matter what Ross does — whether lacrosse, rocket science or something new — as long as he's enjoying himself, they will be happy.
"I think it feels good just to watch your kid excel at anything or just even participate and be happy about it. It's not a matter of just playing lacrosse. I enjoy watching him when he does well in school — when he does well at anything … just watching your child exceed and succeed at anything is what we enjoy … It doesn't matter what he does if he's enjoying it — my wife and I just enjoy watching both of our kids just participate in things," Ryan said.