Stratton, Taylor honored
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 12/10/2010
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By Kristen Koester-Smith, Athletic Media Relations

To develop well-rounded citizens of the campus and community. That is one goal of Vandal Athletics.

There are no finer examples in the class of 2011 than volleyball player Kelsey Taylor and swimmer Staci Stratton - two of this year's recipients of the University of Idaho  Alumni Award for Excellence, which honors students for their academic achievement as well as "leadership in the classroom, laboratory, campus, and community." The award is given annually to approximately  40 undergraduate seniors and 15 graduate or law students.

"It proves that they are exceptional, well above and beyond the normal student," said Hugh Cooke, the Office of Alumni Relations Associate Director.

Taylor, who has played on the UI volleyball team for the past four years, was nominated for the Alumni Award for excellence by Debbie Buchanan, head volleyball coach, and Dr. Rob Spear, UI athletic director. She has been a leader by example to her team, in the community, and around campus.

In her letter of recommendation Coach Buchanan said, "...I feel she is a strong female candidate for this award and exemplifies what this award is all about."

Taylor's many extracurricular activities include volunteering at St. Mary's and McDonald's elementary schools and Moscow Kids' Safety Fair. She was an active participant in Relay for Life, Dig for the Cure, food drives, and adopting local families for Christmas support. Taylor also spent an entire spring break in Spartanburg, S.C., on an Alternate Service trip. She also was chosen captain of her volleyball team this year.

Taylor said volunteering in the Moscow community means more to her because she grew up here and knows a lot of people who live here, but her favorite extracurricular activity was her Alternative Spring Break trip to South Carolina.

"It wasn't like anything I have ever done. It just felt really good to help people and to get to know people from somewhere different and see how they live," Taylor said.

Even while devoting her time to better the community and playing volleyball, Taylor managed to keep a 3.83 GPA in General Studies/Pre- Physical Therapy. Taylor's hard work in school resulted in her receiving academic all-conference recognition for the past three years and being on the Dean's List from 2006-10.

Taylor said sometimes it was hard to do all these things because she got busy, but it was worth it.

"I think it is good to do a balance of everything, and it's important to give back to the community. ... It definitely is worth it," Taylor said.

As an Award for Excellence recipient, Taylor was asked to pick a faculty or staff member who has been particularly inspiring to her during her time at UI. Taylor chose assistant volleyball coach Moritz Moritz.

"He's taught me a lot of things about hard work, and how passion and desire are necessary. I think whether he's attuned to it or not, he's always inspired me to be better," Taylor said about Moritz.

Moritz was very happy but shocked when he learned Taylor had picked him. He said he felt honored to be make the top of the list of people who has inspired Taylor, considering the amount of time she has spent with professors and other coaches while at UI. Moritz may have not expected the recognition, but he was always trying to push Taylor to be her best on and off the volleyball court.

"[Other] coaches get caught up in the training aspect as opposed to developing these kids in other aspects. I think we do, and I think we do a good job. Kelsey Taylor is a perfect, prime example of that," Moritz said.

Swimming coach Tom Jager, whom Staci Stratton picked as her inspirational staff member, has a similar ideology in coaching.

"We want to inspire kids. That's what we do. ...The state of Idaho pays our way so we can inspire the future leaders of our country," Jager said.

Stratton chose Jager as her inspirational staff member because he always believed in her as an athlete and as a student. Stratton was a walk-on to the woman's swim team and she had swum only six weeks a year before she started Division I swimming.

"In the beginning, I knew I wasn't that fast, but I knew I had potential and I could be a leader and do well in extracurricular things. To have him have that confidence in me from the beginning was really nice," Stratton said.

Jager nominated Stratton, who is now the fastest freestyle sprinter on the team, for the Award for Excellence. In his recommendation letter for Stratton, he said she was who the other athletes went to for academic guidance and that she truly represented excellence.

Stratton herself was surprised by the amount of her accomplishments when she listed them on her application for the award. Not only has she developed as a successful swimmer, she was the captain of the swim and dive team 2009-10. She volunteers at junior swimming meets as a timing official and assists at weekly practices. She also volunteers at Moscow High School by teaching PE classes.  She has been a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee since she was a freshman and is currently the president, in addition to being a student-athlete representative on the President's Athletic Advisory Committee. Stratton said SAAC was her favorite extracurricular activity.

"When I started here I was on the council, and I've always been on the council, but I never thought I would be president. I think we've had bigger attendance this year, and it's been really successful," Stratton said.

Stratton is from Sequim, Wash., and always was involved with extracurricular activities in her hometown. Although she wanted to help out in the Moscow community when she got here, she didn't feel very connected. All that changed when Stratton helped deliver Christmas gifts to a family in need.

"That was a really big moment, and I really appreciated that. Ever since then I've been really determined," Stratton said.

Stratton also said she has been astonished by the amount of giving the Moscow community does.

"The alumni here are incredible, and everyone is always giving. That is really cool," Stratton said.

Stratton is a senior in the exercise science program and has maintained a 3.71 GPA, despite her time constraints from swimming and volunteering. She's received the Dean's Academic Achievement Award every semester she's been at UI, and she has been honored by the Western Athletic Conference as an all-academic athlete.

Stratton said sometimes she has felt like she didn't have enough time to do everything, but she said she just had to learn how to manage her time. She said she would encourage students to get involved with the community and campus and not let time restraints stop them.

"Time management is the key to anything. Make sure you're getting enough sleep and those things, and then you can do pretty much whatever you want to do," Stratton said.

Jager said it is imperative to those who want to be great in the world to excel at more than one thing. Stratton has shown her ability to do this throughout her time at UI, and the Award for Excellence recognizes her for it.

"I'm fortunate I have a great job. I love what I do. I love coming to work and people like Staci make it that much better," Jager said.

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