AFTON – On Friday evening, family, friends, and the Afton community gathered together to celebrate Afton senior Elijah Baciuska. Baciuska officially signed a letter of intent to play soccer at Houghton University. It was an exciting night, despite the cold and snowy weather.
During the ceremony, Baciuska was praised by his fellow coaches and administrators before him and his family took center stage to officially commit by signing the letter.
The ceremony meant a lot to Elijah and the Baciuska family after spending three weeks in the hospital with a collapsed lung.
“ After being in the hospital for nearly three weeks, I was so looking forward to seeing all of my friends, family, teammates, etc. I was so surprised of all the people that came out that night even with the weather not being the greatest,” Elijah said. “Seeing everyone and hearing some of my coaches tell some stories from over the years was really nice to hear and something I really needed after the challenges I faced in the weeks prior! I was finally able to smile and laugh (although laughing was a bit painful still) and was just so happy to be able to see everyone.”
Throughout his high school soccer career, Elijah appreciated time well spent with head coach Joe Bunzey and was proud to lead Afton to a MAC championship this past season. Elijah was also thankful to play with his younger brother, Braydon and celebrate Afton’s first ever MAC title in program history together.
Baciuska also ran track for the combined Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton/Harpursville team, where he was a 2022 MAC champion in the 1600 meter run.
Outside of the Varsity Soccer program, Baciuska has also been a part of the BC United Boys Soccer Club 05’ team and has been playing travel soccer overall since he was nine years old. The team is currently ranked first in the NY State West while being 94th in the nation.
The travel soccer team helped greatly in the recruiting process, which started in November of 2021. Elijah and his team attended a showcase in Virginia where many college recruiters and coaches first watched him and continued to do so throughout several events.
Elijah received offers from nine schools and was able to narrow the list down to about five schools. He visited all five where he was able to experience the culture of each team and see if it was the right fit. From there, his college list went down to three and compared each to pick his final offer to attend Houghton University.
“ All of the top three schools were similar in many ways with beautiful campuses, athletic facilities and great coaches/players,” Baciuska said. “ But in the end, Houghton just “felt right” for me. Plus they are a Christian University, which is very important to me as well.”
He also was accepted into Houghton’s London Honors program with a great opportunity to travel/study in London during the spring semester of his freshman year.
At Houghton University, Elijah plans to study Biology as part of the Pre-Chiropractic Program and minor in Business. He will then join the doctorate program of Chiropractic and seeks to eventually open up his own practice.
Elijah is this year’s Class of 2023 Salutatorian at Afton high school. He just missed Valedictorian as his girlfriend beat him by .24 points. He is also a member of the National Honor Society and of the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) organization. His passion in sports came from his parents Stacie and Jamie Baciuska, who were active in their high school and college days. He will miss playing team soccer with his brother Braydon, who is a Junior at Afton, and the pair had played together since Elijah was five years old.