Playing Division I women’s ice hockey in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) is no small feat. Playing with a heart condition, however, puts it in a whole new league.

“I think when I initially found out that I was battling a heart condition, I was slightly in denial and didn’t really understand the extent of my condition,” said Mikayla Capelle. “I was also taken aback at the fact that I was only 19 and what I had thought, a healthy athlete.”

Capelle, who will graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on May 21 with a bachelor’s degree in management, was diagnosed in her sophomore year. She had a Medtronic Loop Recorder implant inserted in her chest to monitor her 24/7, along with close observation from her cardiologist and the athletic trainers at Rensselaer. This allowed her to fully participate while knowing she was safe.

“My biggest coping mechanisms were first and foremost my support system,” she said. “From coaches, teammates, athletics training staff, doctors, professors, and, of course, my family, I was always looked after and my health was prioritized. In addition, they made sure that I was taking care of my mental health and keeping a positive mindset.”

Capelle has excelled on the ice and in the classroom. She was team captain last season, was awarded the Bill Cahill Memorial Coach’s Award for 2021-2022, had a 4.0 GPA for two semesters, was on the dean’s list for six semesters, and was named to the ECAC Hockey All-Academic team four times.

She was attracted to Rensselaer because of the “amazing opportunities” she would receive at the Lally School of Management. “I knew that with the reputation Rensselaer has, upon graduation, I would have all the necessary tools to step foot into the real world. In addition to the great school, the values that the women’s hockey team had to offer directly correlated to what I stand by.”

The team is actively involved in giving back to the community. Prior to COVID, Capelle volunteered with Girls Inc. in Albany. She and her teammates would help the girls with homework after school, participate in arts and crafts, and even held dance parties. “We got to bring the girls to the rink, show them around, and teach them how to shoot some pucks. Working with the girls from Girls Inc. was so amazing and you could truly see the appreciation from them,” she said. She has also volunteered for Sidewalk Warriors of Troy.

Her advice to incoming students? “Be open to new opportunities and don’t be afraid to get involved with extracurricular activities. You are where you are for a reason; don’t forget it!”