Amanda McElheran - Immaculate Heart Central

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        This month's installment of Victory Promotion's Student Athlete Showcase honors one of the North Country's emerging stars, Amanda McElheran, a sophomore from Immaculate Heart Central School in Watertown. She is the daughter of Patti and Mike McElheran. She has an older sister, Allison, who is currently attending Misericordia University in Pennsylvania.

        This young woman presents herself as "self-motivated" and eager to be the best she can be in everything she is in involved in. From the time Mandi (her preferred name) was 8 months old, she has been on the move, literally. Her mom shares that she was "walking at 8 months." She has not slowed down since; in fact, she prefers a lifestyle of being active, not necessarily always on the athletic court or field.

        Mandi found that she enjoyed sports at an early age. Her parents, admittedly new to the organized sports scene in the Watertown area, began to enroll her older sister in various organized sports throughout Jefferson County. Mandi was "forced" to "tag along" with the family, but she quickly points out that she really enjoyed being there in the crowd with her parents. In fact, instead of complaining about sitting and watching her sister, she chose to watch closely and study the sports Alli was involved in. Dad recalls enjoying these times with Mandi, and eventually, when she understood the sport better, she would critique what Alli and the others were doing wrong! A self-described sports junkie Mandi admits that watching and studying her sister play sports is where her love for lacrosse and other sports was born. Eventually she became old enough to participate herself and she has not skipped a season since about second grade, including every summer.

        Mandi says that her experiences with various sports and the excellent coaching she has received have taught her many valuable skills that allow her to now be a good teammate and friend. She stresses team work throughout our interview. She feels the IHC school faculty and staff do an excellent job of encouraging kids to be themselves, not comparing students or causing a great deal of jealousy. According to Mandi the school consistently fosters a positive atmosphere of acceptance for all students. She and her parents have enjoyed this type of atmosphere for her and her sister to learn and grow into well rounded women.

        Mandi is a starting guard and captain on a very successful Lady Cavalier women's basketball team. Although the Lady Cavaliers suffered a recent defeat to the States number 1 Class D women's team, Heuvelton, she insists the future is bright for her and her teammates, "if we continue to work hard as a team." Her coach Bob Piddock echoes this sentiment. "We have everyone back except one senior; the girls know what they need to do to continue to improve." He also says that he doesn’t have to worry about Mandi, "she will put in the work in the off season." He agrees that her improvement will need to come in individual skills. Coach Piddock feels Mandi is a great teammate and "a great leader." Prior to the regular season Coach met with the senior captain to consider a co-captain for the team and choosing Mandi was a "no brainer." Mandi points out that the atmosphere Coach Piddock promotes allows her and her teammates to have fun and accept each of their roles "as important as the next player," this includes the players who are on the bench at any particular time. She was selected as a Frontier League All-Star this past season after receiving honorable mention as a freshman.

        According to her veteran soccer Coach Kurt Robbins Mandi displays every attribute you would want to see in a leader. She was named a captain this past season on purpose. He feels she is "respected" by her teammates and she is not afraid "to speak her mind" to coaches or teammates. Coach Robbins feels she was a perfect compliment to the other two outstanding captains. Coach tells a story that entering this past soccer season he was without a veteran goalie. Mandi somewhat reluctantly volunteered. There was an unwritten expectation that, at some point "she would return to her more natural spot at midfield." When he proposed that she could indeed return to midfield, she commented that she would "be glad to return if the new goalie was better than her." Robbins feels she is a great goalie due to her tremendous athleticism, great footwork, work ethic and "you cannot have an ego or conscience to be a great goalie." Mandi was a Frontier League All-Star as a goalie the past two seasons.

        Mandi admits that lacrosse is her favorite sport. While she admittedly enjoys being a three sport athlete it is her ability on the lacrosse field that has landed her a Division I scholarship to the University of Albany. Mandi is very involved in "club lacrosse." Her coach is Nancy Vecchio who does not mix words in describing the positive influence Mandi and her family has had on the "Patriots" program. Coach Vecchio echoes the sentiments of Mandi's other coaches in describing her as a "self motivated, selfless, team first, type of athlete." Coach considers Mandi's mom as a valuable assistant in the Patriots program. According to Mandi it is "common" for lacrosse athletes to "verbally declare to a college about half-way through their sophomore season." Mandi and her parents visited two other colleges and considered several others. She was immediately impressed with Albany from the time she arrived there. She feels she has made the right decision for her. Added to the athletic experience she hopes to enjoy, Albany has the major she is interested in; Digital Forensics. She has developed a genuine interest in criminology and this major fits perfectly with her current plan. She explains that she will not be able to formally sign a letter of intent until her senior year.

        Mandi involves herself in many activities outside of athletics. She is just as motivated in the classroom as in athletics. She sees her work in the classroom to be equally important to anything she does as an athlete. Mandi is consciously trying to become a better, well rounded student. She is a writer for the school newspaper, as well as involving herself in programs to assist people and families less fortunate than she. The local soup kitchen, leaf removal and the building blocks programs take up some of the rare “free time” she has. She also likes arts and crafts, but "I hate music," meaning the playing of music and singing!!!

        Hoping to get stronger physically, improve specific individual skills in all sports, and being even more verbal and a better teammate and leader, she also looks forward to the new challenges her school will have for her academically. These are the areas Mandi feels she needs to improve as she patiently moves forward the next two years. When you spend 30 minutes with this young woman you get a sense that she will be true to her goals and diligently work to better herself in these areas.

        The accolades for this talented sophomore are too many to name. Everyone associated with helping me with this article described her as "mature beyond her years" and "very grounded." She NOT ONCE talked about herself BEFORE talking about how important her teammates are to her. In addition, very healthy amounts of a challenging academic atmosphere, great coaching, and, most especially, parents who have provided their children with varied activities and support them completely, have all had a part in guiding Mandi in becoming this terrific young woman, emerging athletic star and leader, teammate and honor student. She has a multitude of resources available to her to work through the necessary areas she defines as her weaknesses. I am pretty sure she will use these people and places to her benefit!

        Congratulations Mandi on being selected as this month’s honoree. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with you and yourparents. We all wish you good luck as you pursue you goals!

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