Field hockey alumna redefines the student-athlete experience

Kaylah Igarta ’21 developed a love for field hockey from a young age and when she became a part of the Quinnipiac team, that passion blossomed into a journey of inspiration for many.

She strives to leave any room she walks into better than she found it. That is just what Igarta did as the first Black athlete on this team. As a teammate and a pioneer, she made an impact on Quinnipiac athletics for years to come.

“The distinction of being the first Black student-athlete to play for the field hockey team holds profound meaning for me,” said Igarta. “My time with this special organization is a cherished part of my journey. The thought of my narrative at Quinnipiac being revisited time and again in the years to come fills me with a sense of humble pride and gratitude. This legacy, which I hold dear to my heart, serves as a testament to my journey and the influence it may have on future generations.”

Built on the pillars of dedication, resilience and accountability, the athletes were given room to discover and embrace their true selves. As a team, they learned the importance of creating space for others and fostering an openness toward others’ experiences and emotions, said Igarta.

Current Field Hockey Head Coach Nina Klein speaks highly of the mark Igarta left on the program.

“Kaylah is the kindest soul, a tremendous teammate to her peers and she left the program better than she found it,” said Klein. “She embodies the intensity, resilience and work ethic that we seek in every person who earns the privilege of wearing our jersey. Although we are working to increase diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within our team, I am proud to say that Kaylah will be a trailblazer for Black field hockey players who want to find a home playing field hockey at Quinnipiac.”

Many challenges come with balancing the academic and athletic life of a student-athlete. However, Igarta shared that she felt supported in every way throughout her journey. She gained deeper insights into the game through diverse coaching methodologies, discovered time management strategies and explored techniques for maintaining physical and mental well-being. These resources allowed the alumna to participate in a high-level sport while enabling her to pursue a quality education.

“As I pause to reflect on the trajectory of my career, I am filled with a sense of tranquility and appreciation for the path I’ve forged for those who will follow,” Igarta said. “If my journey serves as a beacon of inspiration for just one young aspiring individual, then I embrace the title of a pioneer with humility and pride.”

She is inspired daily by the cumulative resilience of women of color across diverse fields who defy conventions, dismantle obstacles and shatter expectations. Specifically, figures such as Maya Angelou, a beacon in literature and art, and Cicely Tyson, a trailblazer in entertainment.

Now as Igarta works in the marketing and creative design industry, she often finds herself utilizing the mindset she developed through field hockey in her professional life.

“During my field hockey career, I learned that sometimes, your path to where you are going might look different from those around you,” said Igarta. “But it’s important not to let that scare you from going after the life you envision for yourself. That goes to show that after the last whistle is blown and it’s time to hang up the cleats, life still goes on. As a female in this world, there are still glass ceilings that need to be shattered and barriers that must be broken down.”

Although she no longer wears a Quinnipiac jersey, her four years as a student-athlete remain etched in the field as an unforgettable era for the university.

“This chapter of my life may one day serve as a beacon of inspiration for one young girl in the future,” said Igarta. “A young Black girl, picking up a field hockey stick for the first time, wondering if she too can make it to the collegiate level, perhaps even beyond."

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