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Rachel Hunsicker

Rachel Hunsicker

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Rachel Hunsicker

Member of the CDSWOY Class of 2020
  • Class

    2020

  • Sport(s)

    Scholastic

  • Induction

    2020

Written by Jim Schiltz, The Daily Gazette Staff Writer

Lake George High School bowler Rachel Hunsicker really got it rolling this year, both on the lanes and off.

The singer, actress, editor and star student spearheaded a cultural showcase as well as a lecture series as part of her ongoing effort to “provide people opportunities to learn about one another and the world around them.”

The president of her school’s Spectrum (Gay Straight Alliance) Club and an active participant with its online GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) Street Team, Hunsicker chaired Eyes on the World which in February brought together students, teachers and community members for a cultural gathering that featured music, foods, interactive displays and the arts.

“She is a thinker who thinks beyond the box,” Lake George bowling coach Todd Wood said of the senior who is one of 10 high school honorees for the inaugural Capital District Sports Women of the Year awards, which also sees three college athletes recognized.

Among the objectives for Eyes on the World, Hunsicker said, was to “have kids increase their cultural confidence,” and “to increase understanding and empathy for other people in the community, and in other communities.”

With the Hunsicker-led Being Human Project, panelists were set up to discuss issues prominent to the youth in Warren County. Two sessions were held before the coronavirus shut down schools and put a hold on social gatherings.

“The first three lectures were about mental health, and mental health awareness,” Hunsicker said. “What teens and adults face.”

Hunsicker has worked with teens as a Rock Solid Mentoring Program team leader and as a Student to Student peer counselor. She has also worked for teens as a member of the Lake George Leadership Council and the school’s Breakfast Club, which offers ideas that would enhance the overall school experience, and as a member of SPARC (Strategic Planning and Review Committee), which offers teachers ideas that would enhance the learning experience.

“She goes above and beyond when she sees someone needs help,” Wood said of the Capital District Sports Women of the Year scholastic-division honoree. “She has a compassionate, sensitive, calming nature.”

The versatile Hunsicker played one of the lead characters, Jenna Rolan, when the Lake George Drama Club staged “Be More Chill” in November, and she was also a member of the Cabaret Club, Senior Select Choir and Castleton Select Choir. Yearbook editor and treasurer and school newspaper editor also line her resume, as well as French Club, Senior High Art Club and Astronomy Club.

“My schedule is still full, but not as full as it was,” Hunsicker said of her routine since schools were closed. “I used to get up at 6 a.m. and go straight through until 11 at night.”

Hunsicker ranks seventh in her class of 84 with a 94.53 average. She will attend Colgate University and major in international relations with a double minor in economics and gender studies.

Hunsicker was among the January honorees for The Glens Falls Post-Star’s 2020 Teen Excellence Awards. The Teen Excellence Awards look to go beyond academic subjects and athletics to identify outstanding young people between the ages of 13 and 19 who have demonstrated personal growth, leadership and innovation along with a commitment to the community.

“We are so proud of Rachel and all of her characteristics, and we know that she will continue to grow beyond her high school and is bound to do great things in her life,” Wood said.

Hunsicker bowled on the Lake George varsity team for five years and served as a team captain.

This article appeared in the 2020 CDSWOY Awards Program on August 18, 2020.

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Clare Howard

Clare Howard

Explore CDSWOY All-Time Roster Members

Clare Howard

Member of the CDSWOY Class of 2021
  • Class

    2021

  • Sport(s)

    Scholastic

  • Induction

    2021

Written by Jim Schiltz, The Daily Gazette Sports Writer

Can you imagine playing five sports, playing three musical instruments, and hitting the books hard enough to earn a bunch of academic awards and rank third in your graduating class?

Clare Howard, Taconic Hills’ senior class president, doesn’t have to imagine it.

“I really want to be the best version of myself as I can,” the 18-year-old academic and athletic star said. “It’s rewarding to see it all pay off.”

Howard has been adding sports to her resume since she began competing for Taconic Hills as a seventh grader and capped off her record and award-filled scholastic career this school year by participating in soccer and cross country in the fall, swimming and skiing in the winter and track in the spring. She would have done the five as a junior, too, had the spring season not been taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Clare is a remarkable young lady that manages her time well in order to be successfully involved in as much as she is,” Taconic Hills Athletic Director and math teacher Angela Webster said of the Capital District Sports Women of the Year high school honoree. “She is one of the most all-around talented individuals I have met in my career. I admire her for her positive, calm demeanor in the classroom while being an aggressive, sportsmanlike competitor on the field.”

Howard will focus on the 400 hurdles at William and Mary, and while she has yet to declare a major, she has great interest in the math and science fields where the National Honor Society member has received several prestigious awards.

“I definitely hope I appear as a role model,” said Howard. “Our school is K through 12, so I really hope to show the younger girls what you can do and where you can go. It takes a lot of hard work, but it can happen and it’s so rewarding.”

For her efforts, Howard has been rewarded with several state ski meet and state track championship appearances.

“In eighth grade, I made the state team in the 400 hurdles, and that was a turning point,” said Howard, who set PRs in the high and intermediate hurdle events at the recent East Coast Championships. “That’s when I thought, ‘I can do something with this.’”

The multi-talented teen can also play the piano, flute and cello, and was invited to perform with the Empire State String Youth Orchestra.

“I was always active growing up, and that carried over to my teenage years,” Howard said. “I am just really thankful that with everything I’ve done, I’ve had my family and friends and everyone in school backing me up and supporting me.”

Howard served as her class treasurer for three years, acted as a board representative for the Scholarship Committee for Dollars for Scholars, and was on the school’s COVID-19 reopening committee. Away from school, she has worked with the Humane Society and has helped with a youth track program.

“I have known Clare Howard for the last four years both as a coach and a teacher,” said Taconic Hills Dean of Students and varsity girls’ soccer coach Patrick McDonald. “Judging from these experiences, I can say with confidence that Clare is a dedicated student-athlete who leads others by setting a strong example with her effort and intensity both in the classroom and on the playing field. Clare is a very friendly, outgoing person. She has a great sense of humor and interacts wonderfully with her peers and adults.”

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Jenna Hoffman

Jenna Hoffman

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Jenna Hoffman

Member of the CDSWOY Class of 2021
  • Class

    2021

  • Sport(s)

    Scholastic

  • Induction

    2021

Written by Jim Schiltz, The Daily Gazette Sports Writer

Jenna Hoffman and the word “idle” just don’t mix.

“As I grew up, I wanted to be involved with everything,” Maple Hill’s Student Council and National Honor Society president, senior class vice president and board of education student rep said. “I have a plan every morning. School first, sports, and do the clubs.”

There’s that volunteer work beyond the classroom, too, that keeps the four-sport athlete and Principal’s List mainstay on her toes. Just for starters, she is a Girl Scout Silver Award winner based on her community service, a Junior EMT and a Pen Pal for Castle Hill residents.

“When you have a passion for things, you make it work,” said Hoffman, who is one of 10 high school honorees for the second-annual Capital District Sports Women of the Year awards.

Sports are among her passions, and during her senior year she played four of them, including tennis for the first time last fall when volleyball due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time was shifted to the “Fall II” season in March and April. She played softball and basketball, as well, and will continue to shoot hoops when she attends St. John Fisher College and majors in Inclusion Childhood Education. The Service Scholarship she received from the Rochester institution means she will be doing many hours of volunteer work, and she said she can’t wait to find out just who she will be helping out.

“I just want to put people before myself,” said the 18-year-old, who during her time at Maple Hill mentored younger students, participated in the Miracle League Basketball program and served on its mental health committee. “It comes from my mom [Jackie Hoffman], who has always been a wonderful role model for me. She made me want to influence people around me.”

“Jenna volunteers so much of her time to help others which makes her an outstanding member of the school community and the Schodack community as a whole,” Maple Hill science teacher and varsity volleyball coach Leonard Bacon said of his team captain and MVP.

Hoffman has been honored time and again for her athletic performance and for her selfless efforts, and has received the YMCA Leadership Award, Hoby Leadership Award, Ryla Rotary Youth Leadership Award, Kiwanis Outstanding Senior Award and a Heisman Scholarship.

“It makes me feel great,” Hoffman said of her willingness to give, like she did by making thank-you signs for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and by creating and organizing a holiday video tribute for the Maple Hill staff. “When I become a teacher, my goal is to make them all feel they are something.”

While Hoffman earned first-team Patroon Conference all-star status this school year in basketball and volleyball, she proved to be a pretty good tennis player too and won the league doubles title to go with her numerous other accomplishments.

“She is everything a coach wants in a player and more; she works hard, values commitment, and is coachable. She is humble, hungry, and is always striving for improvement,” said Maple Hill social studies teacher and varsity softball coach Patrick Austin. “When it came time to choose a team captain for this season, it was an easy decision. Jenna is the quintessential role model that others look up to and she has the leadership, poise, and maturity that a coach looks for in a player to fill that position.”

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Grace Heiting

Grace Heiting

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Grace Heiting

Member of the CDSWOY Class of 2022
  • Class

    2022

  • Sport(s)

    Collegiate

  • Induction

    2022

Written by Adam Shinder, The Daily Gazette

Grace Heiting crammed enough into her time at Union College to make anyone’s head spin.

Her secret to not just getting through it, but thriving while doing so, was fairly straightforward.

“Plenty of sleep,” Heiting said. “And a lot of coffee. That’s kind of how I rock.”

Heiting, who is one of three college honorees for the third-annual Capital District Sports Women of the Year awards, spent her years at Union with dual focuses on both the athletic and academic fronts.

In the classroom, she was a double major, carrying a 3.83 grade point average while pursuing a difficult course load in both Biology and Spanish.

As an athlete, too, Heiting decided to double up. Recruited to Union to play on the Dutchwomen’s Division I hockey team, she also made the choice to play for Union’s Division III women’s lacrosse program — and, just as she did academically, excelled on both fronts.

“I have known Grace for five years now and she’s one of the most articulate, most creative, most involved, and most committed student-athletes that I’ve ever had during my coaching career,” Union women’s hockey coach Josh Sciba said

In three hockey seasons — Union didn’t play in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic — Heiting was consistently among the Dutchwomen’s top performers. She led the team in goals scored as both a freshman and a senior, and topped Union in overall points as a sophomore while finishing her time with the program with 19 goals and 18 assists. She also served as a team captain in her senior season.

But, for the ever-ambitious Heiting, that wasn’t enough. She had a passion for lacrosse as well, and during her freshman season made the decision to become a two-sport college athlete.

“My entire freshman year, I kind of had it in the back of my head,” Heiting said. “I didn’t know if that was something that was realistic or possible. I remember when my hockey season ended, that was when I was really poring through the lacrosse schedule, and I was able to bring it up to my hockey coach Josh Sciba. And I remember I was a little bit nervous; you know, I didn’t know how he was going to react. I didn’t know any other women’s hockey players that had done this.

And?

“He had the best reaction. He went to his laptop and pulls up the lacrosse schedule and was like, ‘Alright, I think we can make this work. I’m going to get you in touch with your coach.’ I think having that support from the higher-ups was incredible. He helped set me up with the lacrosse program, and after I had a little tryout and met the girls, it was just a no-brainer. I was so grateful for that opportunity.”

That decision paid dividends, especially in 2022, when she was named to the IWLCA All-Region first team after producing the third-highest single-season points total and fifth-highest single-season goal total in Union history, while also establishing a program record of 5.18 points per game.

“I can’t say enough about what Grace Heiting meant to the Union College women’s lacrosse team this year,” former Union interim women’s lacrosse coach Jessica Davos said. “A kind, caring and fiercely competitive young woman who performs just as well in the classroom as she does on the field, Grace is the epitome of ‘student-athlete.’”

For Heiting, academics has always been just as important as athletics. An aspiring doctor, she was a part of Union’s Beckman Scholars Program, a 15-month mentored research program for undergraduate students in the STEM fields. She was honored a combined seven times by the the Liberty League and ECAC Hockey All-Academic teams, and received Union’s Lee, William, Dr. Norman and Dr. George Wrubel Memorial Prize given to a senior preparing for a career in dentistry or medicine, based on both their academic achievement and their character.

As a senior, she presented at the Experimental Biology Meeting in Philadelphia, where she received the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology Section Travel Award.

“It was such such an incredible opportunity,” she said, “to just see what other schools and other people are working on and what they’re passionate about.”

In the community, Heiting served as a campus ambassador for the Gift of Life Campaign, a nonprofit that recruits donors to join the national bone marrow registry, and served as a member of Union’s Honor Council.

Since graduating from Union, she’s moved on to the University of Maine, where she’ll wrap up her college hockey career and pursue a certificate in Arts & Humanities in Medicine before moving on to her ultimate goal of medical school.

“One thing I know for sure,” Union athletic director Jim McLaughlin said, “is that she is going to have a very positive impact on every patient she comes in contact with, just as she has done as a student and athlete on our campus.”

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Rebecca Hall

Rebecca Hall

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Rebecca Hall

Member of the CDSWOY Class of 2022
  • Class

    2022

  • Sport(s)

    Scholastic

  • Induction

    2022

Written by Paul Wager, The Daily Gazette

Though it is a small school, Maple Hill is no stranger to athletic success. The Wildcats are perennial Section II contenders in several sports.

With that in mind, Rebecca Hall wasn’t expecting to be among those nominated for the Capital District Sports Women of the Year.

“I was surprised when my athletic director told me that he nominated me,” Hall said. “My school is not that big, but we have a lot of amazing athletes. To have the coaches and athletic director pick me is great.”

Hall is familiar with the award having seen one of her best friends – Jenna Hoffman – nominated last year.

“One of my closest friends [Hoffman] was chosen last year,” said Hall, who is one of 10 high school honorees for the third-annual Capital District Sports Women of the Year awards. “I watched her go through it all. I never thought that it could be me this year.”

While Hall may find it hard to believe that she was nominated, her athletic director Mike Silver, girls’ basketball coach Michael Oliver and girls’ soccer coach Sheila Golden offered plenty of reasons for the selection.

“Rebecca is not only an outstanding athlete, but also a great all-around student,” Silver said. “She has had many achievements and has also contributed greatly to the Schodack Central School District and the Schodack community.”

On the court and field, Hall excelled for the Wildcats, serving as a captain this year for both the girls’ soccer and girls’ basketball teams.

“In my first year as the girls’ varsity basketball coach at Maple Hill high School, Rebecca displayed exceptional leadership and positivity throughout the 2021-2022 season,” Oliver said. “As team captain, Rebecca took on the role of communicating important information, allowing her teammates — ranging from grades eight to 12 — to receive the best experience.”

She earned the Most Improved Award for girls’ soccer and was named a second-team Patroon Conference all-star in girls’ basketball. Hall also earned a New York State Public High School Athletic Association scholar-athlete award and was part of the NYSPHSAA’s Student Leadership Conference in 2021.

“I have been a coach in the Schodack Central School District for 33 years. I can confidently say that Rebecca’s hard work and dedication has enabled her to excel as an athlete and student,” Golden said. “It has been my privilege to have Rebecca on my varsity soccer team for the past two years. During this time, Rebecca has demonstrated a willingness to learn, work hard and strive for success.”

In school, Hall was a Student Council officer in each of the last four years and served as the National Honor Society President this year. She also was a part of instrumental band and chorus all four years of high school.

“In addition to sports, Rebecca participated in many extra-curricular clubs and activities at school,” Golden said. “Rebecca has been able to balance her busy schedule and challenging academic course load with a high level of success. Rebecca’s success both in and out of school is the direct result of her desire to produce quality work through quality performance.”

Outside of school, Hall is a member of the Castleton Volunteer Ambulance Squad and recently completed the New York State Emergency Technician (EMT) certification course. She also is part of the squad’s membership committee, which interviews and recruits new members.

“When I turned 16, I became a junior member of the Castleton Volunteer Ambulance Squad,” Hall said. “After the first call, I went on, I decided that it was something that I wanted to do.”

In addition to her work with the ambulance squad, also was part of the Tulip Project, which made more than 150 Christmas ornaments and 100 felt spring flowers that were distributed to local nursing homes during the pandemic. She also has fundraised and participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in the annual Walk to Cure Diabetes.

The disease is one that has affected Hall on a personal level.

“When I was 4, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes,” Hall said. “I was always around doctors and patients. That’s what sparked me to want to be a nurse or doctor.”

With that in mind, Hall will attend Siena College in the fall, where she will attend the Belanger School of Nursing to obtain her bachelor’s in nursing.

Hall also has been a part of the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Walk and participates annually in the Street Soldiers II of Troy to help distribute food, toiletries and other necessities to families.

“My dad has always been involved in the community as a coach,” Hall said. “I’ve always seen how important being involved in the community is.”

Like her father, Hall also has served as a coach in the Sacred Heart CYO Basketball League for first- and second-grade teams.

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