Capital's VanHemelryck Shows Heart of a Champion for Saints - News, Sports and Weather

Capital's VanHemelryck Shows Heart of a Champion for Saints

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For Capital High School's Shelby VanHemelryck the game of basketball has always been her passion. The question has never been if she has the heart to put in the work, it's whether or not her heart can handle it.

"I was born with VSD, which is a hole in my heart," said Shelby.

Shelby has had five open heart surgeries, but not even that couldn't force her to give up the game. However just a few months ago doctors finally told her that she would have to put her dream of playing on hold.

"It was just a six month routine check up, and we went in and did a stress test actually," said Shelby. "And they just realized that my blood pressure can not rise above 120. So that causes me be either at risk for a heart attack, or for my heart to stop at any moment."

The last time Shelby stepped off the court as a Capital Bruin she did so as a champion, as a part of the first state title in the programs history. 

"I didn't know last year that that was going to be my last year of basketball," said Shelby. "I played my heart out every game."

"She is one of the best teammates that I have ever coached," said Capital Bruins head coach Bill Pilgeram. "She's coachable, she has a great attitude, she just does everything you ask of her, and she loves the game and wants to get better."

Growing up a lifelong Carroll Saints fan, Shelby had always dreamed of suiting up in purple and gold following her career as a Bruin. And after hearing about her diagnosis, Saints head coach Rachelle Sayers named Shelby an honorary Saint for her women's basketball team, fulfilling her dream of being a part of Carroll basketball.

"She knows that basketball is a huge part of my life, and she doesn't want to see it go away, and I don't either," said Shelby. "So she's just letting me enjoy living basketball in a different way, and helping in a different way."

"When we're home we want her to be around, at practices, shoot arounds, games sitting on the bench," said Sayers. "She has a locker in the locker room. We just want her to feel like anytime she wants to be with us she's welcome."

And Shelby's isn't the only one benefiting from being a part of the team, the 24th ranked and undefeated Carroll Saints are pulling inspiration from her. 

"She loves the game, and she just shows that sometimes when we're having a hard day and just want to quit or something that there's that girl out there that can't practice," said Saints sophomore forward Michaela Dowdy. "And she'd give anything to be dying because we're running a bunch of lines, or conditioning, or lifting hard. She'd be dying to be in our position, and it just helps us work so much harder, just because she's there."

"I think it keeps all that we do in perspective," said Sayers. "This is just a game. We have an amazing opportunity to impact the lives, and do what we love to do."

All the support Shelby is receiving has made a huge impact on her post-basketball transition. But that doesn't mean she isn't still practicing to one day be able to return to the dream she put on hold. Shelby has too much heart to give up.

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