DURHAM, N.H. -- Senior Lauren McCandless (Macungie, Pa.) of the University of New Hampshire women's swimming & diving team epitomized what it meant to be a student-athlete.
McCandless, who graduated this May with magna cum laude distinction, earned a degree in Molecular & Cellular Biology/Biochemistry. The four-year letterwinner owns an astonishing list of accolades both academically and athletically.
In her collegiate career, she is a two-time America East Scholar-Athlete of the Year (2012 and 2014), two-time Chi Sigma Alpha honoree (2013 and 2014) and four-time Division I Academic All-American. Most recently, the senior collected the Dean Williamson award, the 2014 Create Your Own Story honor and named the Jim Urquhart Student-Athlete of the Year.
Furthermore, McCandless is a four-time America East All-Conference selection and champion in the 1,650-yard freestyle – the fifth swimmer in America East history to win the same event four years in a row. She is a 10-time America East champion and a four time-ECAC winner.
The senior reigns as the program record holder in the 500- (4 minutes, 51.20 seconds, 2013) 1,000- (10:00.97, 2011) and 1,650-yard freestyle (16:35.31, 2011), leading the Wildcats to three conference titles in four years (ECAC, 2011; America East, 2013; America East, 2014). In addition, McCandless is also associated with the program's fastest relay times in the 200-(1:41.70, 2011) and 400-yard medley relay (3:34.89, 2011). At Swasey Pool, McCandless is the record holder in the 200-yard butterfly (2:01.91, 2013) as well as a member of the fastest quartet in the 400-yard medley relay (3:50.13, 2014).
"Throughout her four years as a member of the swim team and a leader on campus, Lauren was looked at both as an outstanding teammate and an extension of the coaching staff," said women's swimming & diving head coach Josh Willman. "Not only serving as a captain her junior and senior year, Lauren was chosen to sit on the President's Athletic Advisory Committee providing recommendations and feedback for decisions to be made by the University with regard to student-athlete welfare. McCandless has been 'Ms. Everything' for the team as she is the resident head swim tutor, has guided teammates through homesickness, personal struggles and been a wonderful example to her teammates through words and actions."
In the pool, McCandless immediately took the conference by storm and garnered the America East Rookie of the Year award in 2011. The freshman swimmer set program records in the 500- (4:52.87) 1,000- (10:00.97) and 1,650-yard freestyle (16:35.97) at the conference championships. McCandless continued to compete at the ECAC Championships and was a member of the leading quartet in the 800-yard freestyle relay that captured first place and a record time of 7:28.31. Individually, McCandless proceeded to shatter records, rewriting the conference's best times in the 200-yard medley relay (1:42.97) and the 1,650-yard freestyle (16:35.31), helping UNH garner its first ECAC title since 2003 and second in program history. She capped off the rookie season as a CollegeSwimming.com Mid-Major All-America Honorable Mention.
Her sophomore campaign was again nothing short of stellar. Throughout the regular season, she dominated the 200-yard butterfly, capturing first place on four occasions. McCandless replicated her success at the 2012 America East Championships, recording six top-five finishes, one of which was a gold-medal performance in the 1,650-yard freestyle (16:42.39).
Junior year, McCandless continued to amass top finishes, capturing gold in 13 events, 10 of which were individual. At the 2013 America East Championships, McCandless earned her third consecutive title in the 1,650-yard freestyle while setting a pool record in the process (16:48.10), leading New Hampshire to its first conference title since 2006 and fifth in program history. As a team, the Wildcats set a new conference-high of 858 points with McCandless paving the way.
In 2013-14, the senior put the final touches on a decorated career. McCandless earned the top spot on the podium 16 times and again led New Hampshire to an America East title, sixth in program history. UNH reset its previous record of 858 points to 877 with McCandless netting a team-high 57 points for the 'Cats. She successfully defended her title in the 1,650-yard freestyle (16:46.64), becoming the first in America East history to win the event four consecutive years. In addition, she placed first in the 200-yard butterfly, gliding through the water with a time of 2:00.33. Over the four years competing at the America East Swimming & Diving Championships, McCandless registered the most points (215) amongst all swimmers in league history and earned the inaugural David Alexander Coaches Award.
Following commencement, McCandless is returning to her home state of Pennsylvania and taking a year off from school. In the near future, McCandless aspires to enroll in medical school.
"Lauren has been tested through her experiences here at UNH as a student-athlete and is more than prepared to shine in medical school," said Willman. "We are all very sad to see her graduate, but we are excited to see where she goes in the future because I am confident that she will attack every challenge met in the future and do great things. Lauren is undoubtedly the most intense and hard working collegiate swimmer, male or female, that I have ever coached."
For the latest news on the women's swimming & diving team as well as all 20 varsity sports, please visit UNHWildcats.com.