Union’s Heiting stars as two-sport athlete and student

Grace Heiting plays lacrosse and hockey for Union College. (Photos provided by Union Athletics)

Grace Heiting plays lacrosse and hockey for Union College. (Photos provided by Union Athletics)

SCHENECTADY Grace Heiting missed one game last week to receive an academic award, then won an athletic award for the two she played for interim head coach Jessica Davos’ Union women’s lacrosse team.

That sequence of events made sense to Josh Sciba, who coached Heiting during her career with the Union College women’s hockey team and has grown accustomed to the idea that the 21-year-old from Woodbury, Minnesota, simply becomes more productive the busier she gets.

“When you think of Grace, you think of someone who is so dedicated to her craft and everything she does, and you just see that in every facet of her life,” Sciba said.

Heiting earned a share earlier this week of the Liberty League Co-Offensive Performer of the Week award following a two-game stretch that saw the senior score 11 goals, register three assists, collect 17 draw controls, cause nine turnovers and gather four gound balls in a 1-1 span for Union’s women’s lacrosse team. Those games were against Clarkson and St. Lawrence, which provided Heiting with some extra motivation since those are schools she also faced when she played hockey for Union.

“Going into that weekend, I had a bit of a chip on shoulder because of that,” Heiting said. “Making it a little personal helped out.”

As Davos pointed out, too, the two-sport standout for Union also “had the freshest legs” heading into those games. Right before her two-game scoring blitz, Heiting had missed a game against Middlebury to attend a biology conference in Philadelphia where she presented her thesis work and received the American Physiological Society’s Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology Section Travel Award. Heiting and lab partner Andrew Sheahan — a senior tight end on the school’s football team — were among a batch of Union students who traveled to the conference along with professor Scott Kirkton. Heiting’s thesis is entitled “Hypoxia Decreases Jump Rate and Increases Lactate Production in Late-Stage Grasshoppers,” and she’s worked on related research since the end of her sophomore year at the school.

Heiting is set to graduate this spring with degrees in biology and Spanish. Medical school is in her future, but her plan for next school year is to attend Maine to use her final year of hockey eligibility and earn an Arts and Humanities in Medicine certificate.

With a laugh, Heiting acknowledged that participating in only one sport and one academic track will make for a bit more relaxed school year than usual for herself. After first hearing of Union from when the school’s men’s hockey team won the 2014 national championship with a victory against Minnesota — “That was the team everyone hated,” Heiting, who grew up a Gophers fan, said of Union — Heiting later headed to the school only with plans to play for Union’s Division I women’s hockey team, but joined the school’s Division III women’s lacrosse team at the close of her first hockey season. Heiting said she sought permission from Sciba to try to play both sports, and the coach encouraged her to give it a shot.

“If you know Grace,” Sciba said, “she needs to be active and doing things.”

And she’s very successful in those things. Heiting led her hockey team this past season in goals scored with eight and is the leading scorer this spring with 37 points for her lacrosse team, which looks to even its Liberty League record at 3-3 when it plays at Vassar this weekend. She’s also a standout student and involved in other school activities beyond her sports, and she’s received numerous honors throughout her Union career — including a spot earlier this year as top-three finalist for the 2022 Mandi Schwartz Student-Athlete of the Year Award, which recognizes individuals who are “leaders within their teams, in the classroom and in the community.”

“Grace is the epitome of a Union College student-athlete — a dedicated high-achiever in the classroom, coupled with leadership on the ice and the lacrosse field,” Sciba said at the time Heiting was announced as a finalist. “In addition, all of the research and community service that she’s been involved with has made her one of the most well-rounded individuals to ever come through our program. Union women’s hockey is better because of players like Grace.”

Davos has coached Heiting for only a short time, but said she was instantly impressed with how quickly Heiting was able to move from playing on the ice to the lacrosse field.

“Seeing her stick skills, her handling is absurd — and she gets that from her ice hockey because her wrists are exceptionally strong,” Davos said.

Heiting said her busy athletic and academic career at Union has been, at times, “overwhelming and stressful,” but that hasn’t shown in the results she’s produced. She credited her advisors, classmates, coaches, professors and teammates for helping her to pursue so many different opportunities during her undergraduate career.  

“Everyone here wants you to succeed,” Heiting said. “I’m extremely grateful for that.”

More: All Sports | All Union College

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