Arne Peterson's soccer career was an exercise in patience - a true test of his will and character.
He admittedly doesn't possess the skillful traits of those long for the game, nor does he plan on playing collegiately at Montana State University-Billings next year.
And yet while he never garnered the level of attention like some of his teammates, such as Christian Chala, a college-ready talent, or Hans Kogan, the demonstrative centerback whose presence was unmistakable, Peterson was simply himself - a tough, fiery, consistent midfielder who never sought to be anything else.
That's why Squalicum's coach Joe McAuliffe elected Peterson as his only captain this season.
"He first of all was the most natural choice because the kids respected him a great deal," McAuliffe said. "I think he was a very selfless kind of kid that put his team first."
Everything Peterson stood for was the Storm first, himself second, McAuliffe said. Scoring wasn't a concern - winning was - and his impact shows less in his stat line of seven goals and eight assists, but more in Squalicum's 21-0-2 overall record, a Northwest Conference title, a district crown and a Class 2A state championship.
Even less than a month removed for defeating Capital 4-0 in the title game, Peterson wonders if he'll ever experience such a feeling again.
"I don't know if anybody will ever be on a team like that in the Northwest Conference," said Peterson, alluding to the undefeated season and 79-5 goal differential. "I think it's just a great cap-off of my entire soccer career. I started off as a rec player - as a bottom level Ranger player - and to finally get up to this position of being the captain of a state championship team, it's surreal for me."
Peterson, after guiding Squalicum to one of the most dominant seasons in NWC history and a 2A state title, has been selected The Bellingham Herald's All-Whatcom County Boys' Soccer Player of the Year. McAuliffe, in melding together such a talented and diverse group, has been selected the All-Whatcom County Boys' Soccer Coach of the Year.
How far Peterson has come given the fork-in-the-road moment he faced five years ago.
Peterson was a recreational soccer player up until his seventh-grade year when he decided he wanted more. He sought a tryout with the top-level soccer program in the area, the Whatcom FC Rangers. Disappointment followed, Peterson being placed on the C-team, watching as many of his current Squalicum teammates excel at the A- and B-level squads.
"After I found out I cried a little bit, for sure," he remembered. "There aren't many times where I've cried over anything, especially sports, but I was extremely disappointed. That was one of the biggest blows to my soccer career, but one of the biggest turning points to my soccer career. Makes a grand story."
He always lacked the flare and finishing ability on the offensive end. That was no secret. But in the midfield, Peterson was afforded the opportunity to showcase his greatest asset - his willingness to outwork everyone else.
He bided his time on the C-team, moving up to the B-team the next year and the A-team the year after that, joining Chala, Kogan, B.J. Flood and Gabe Guidroz.
In that time, Peterson believed he gained the respect of his Squalicum teammates.
"I got this sense that I have to earn everything. That's how my soccer career went," Peterson said. "People like to follow people who will work hard for them. They follow me because I work hard and I'm going to the guy who works the hardest."
Those traits endeared McAuliffe to Peterson almost immediately. He saw Peterson's kind nature - a thoughtful, intelligent kid as a freshman that would earn, and not ask for, the respect of his teammates.
There were flashes, too, of the muted skill Peterson possessed, none more so than in the Storm's 6-0 win over Lakewood in its bi-district opener.
Peterson's first goal came off a one-touch liner in the fifth minute, later adding his second on a similar shot into the corner of the net just out of halftime. He nearly secured a hat trick later in the convincing win, watching a shot sail just over the top crossbar.
"Arne's style is more of a simple style, not going to do a flashy thing, reading the game and reading his opponent," McAuliffe said. "We took a lot of shots that weren't high percentage shots that weren't great choices. That was glaringly obvious with us, and I think Arne showed the greatest efficiency about his shooting, and it started then to be infectious."
Squalicum, with 11 seniors, was in no shortage of leadership, McAuliffe said, but Peterson was different. His mental makeup and capacity to put the team over himself was what the Storm needed. They needed Peterson to be himself.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.