DURHAM, N.H. -- Senior Lauren McCandless (Macungie, Pa.) of the women’s swimming & diving team and junior Katie Sattora (Avon, N.Y.) of volleyball were among 10 University of New Hampshire students recognized as the 2014 Create Your Own Story honorees Tuesday at Huddleston Ballroom.
In its 11th year, Create Your Own Story is an annual project designed to highlight students who have made the most of their time at UNH and truly claimed their education. Students are nominated, selected and interviewed. Their amazing stories are then highlighted across campus to inspire other students to create their own story.
McCandless has registered a distinguished array of accomplishments in her collegiate career for the women’s swimming & diving program. A two-time captain, she is the all-time UNH record holder in the 500-, 1,000- and 1,650-yard freestyle, leading UNH to back-to-back America East championships in 2013 and 2014. The senior also was part of the 2011 ECAC championship squad. McCandless is also associated with the program’s fastest relay times in the 200- and 400-yard medley relay. She is a four-time winner and the America East record holder in the 1,650 freestyle. McCandless is just the fifth swimmer in conference history to win the same event all four years. The senior also owns the fastest time ever at Swasey Pool in the 200-yard butterfly.
Outside of the pool, McCandless has been an exemplary student in the classroom and in the community. She will graduate magna cum laude in May 2014 with a B.S. in biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology. Furthermore, she is an active participant with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) as well as a member of the President’s Athletic Advisory Committee. She has given back to the swim community as a coach for clubs in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Most recently, the senior was honored with the Dean Williamson Award, which goes to a senior who has been outstanding and well rounded in extracurricular activities, scholarship, athletics and loyalty to UNH.
When asked to reflect on her overall experience at UNH, McCandless said, “I could not have made a better decision. The academics have pushed me, and faculty has been very understanding and fantastic teachers. And, I can’t even describe how spectacular head coach Josh Willman and associate head coach Jarrod Zwirko have been. It is incredible how they can see the potential in someone and pull that out of them. I truly appreciate every opportunity this team and UNH has given me.”
Sattora’s journey to UNH started in high school by contacting head coach Jill Hirschinger and associate head coach Stacy Barnett about her interest in the school and the volleyball program. After sending a video and attending a UNH volleyball summer camp on campus, she knew it was a good fit, especially considering that UNH had an occupational therapy program she was extremely interested in studying.
Since starting the program, Sattora has taken off and has not looked back. “I am a people person and love working with others,” said Sattora. “My cousin is an occupational therapist who I really look up to and respect, and I could see the passion she had for this field of work every time we talked. I was hoping this might be the right field for my personality, and fortunately I was right.”
Passionate about the field and interacting with children has transpired into two separate, but fulfilling roles in her life. The first as a counselor at the Sunshine Rotary Camp in Rush, N.Y., a summer camp for children with a range of disabilities; and the other as a companion, helper and friend for Kevin Ennis, a junior at UNH who was born with cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound.
The defensive specialist appeared in all 33 matches for the Wildcats last season has been elected to be a co-captain for the 2014 season. Sattora is a member of SAAC and the Leadership Development Program. She is also an active member in the community, assisting food drives and homework club as well as volunteering for organizations such Dig Pink, Pease Greeters and Toys for Tots. Sattora will continue for a fifth year at UNH in graduate school and strives to volunteer abroad in the near future.
Sattora has credited Hirschinger and Barnett for encouraging and supporting her to take what UNH has to offer. The junior further commented, “I am extremely passionate about children and people with disabilities which provides me with many options, but I have a feeling that I will figure it out as I go.”
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