“So come on home where the grass is
green for you,
and pillows know your name.
And it’s not all that you got,
but love is all you need.”
The song “Lonely Lullabies” by rapper Kweku Collins circles through the mind of senior bowler Miranda Hejny. With a grip on her puff ball, Hejny is ready to place her fingers in the hollow chambers and push forward with one of her greatest passions: bowling.
Using her warm-up rituals and her talent, Hejny earned the Women’s Player of the Year award at the Southwestern Intercollegiate Bowling Championships, which is the first time a bowler has won this award at Newman.
Hejny’s teammates Aaron Loera and Leanne Vastbinder won the Men’s Player of the Year award and the Rookie of the Year award, respectively.
Some of her fellow bowlers have remarked that Hejny makes bowling “look easy.”
But according to Hejny, she did not take the easiest path to get into collegiate bowling.
It wasn’t until fifth grade that Hejny starting competitively bowling in a league at Walnut Bowl in Great Bend, so she felt behind many of her teammates who had been bowling all of their lives.
Though Hejny continued her bowling career throughout her high school years at Great Bend High School, it wasn’t until she came to Newman that she said she began going to more “advanced” tournaments.
“I did not travel outside of Kansas until college. Milwaukee was my first out- of- Kansas tournament,” she said. “I didn’t have hardly any of the experience that I would say the majority of my team had because there are big tournaments all over the place that I never went to.”
Hejny said that just in the four years of being a bowler at Newman, her priorities have shifted through her experiences.
“Starting out… I really wanted to score big. A little ways through, I kind of realized that my role was more to be someone on the team who can help other people out of their funk, rather than being someone who is always going to put up really big scores,” she said. “I am more of a comedic relief than someone who is going to get 10 strikes. I’ve really grown into being someone who can bowl and do that.”
Sophomore teammate Kristen Machacek said that Hejny brings light to the entire team.
“She’s crazy, so there’s never a dull moment. She always has everybody laughing at practice and at tournaments, so she keeps the mood light and keeps it fun,” she said.
Hejny attributes her success at the collegiate level to the strong tenacity of her coach, Billy Murphy.
“If my coach wasn’t so dedicated with it, I don’t know if I would still be able to play at this level,” she said. “He says he teaches us how to bowl here, instead of what he calls ‘headhunting’—where you just point [the ball] and try to get a strike. Instead, you are going to play the lanes and do it right.”
Murphy said that he has seen Hejny transform over the years that she has played for him.
“I think Miranda has grown from a player that, when she got here four years ago, wasn’t ready to compete at the college level. She had a wonderful skill set but wasn’t sure how to use it at that point,” he said. “She has turned into one of the best players we have had at this program and competes at a very high level on the national scene. She has become an incredible teammate as well. It is always team first with her.”
Hejny said that it has taken a great deal of perseverance to play at this level.
“I had a lot of bad habits coming into college bowling,” she said. “Starting out, there was really no sacrifice because I loved it so much. Then, with getting to a collegiate level, you’ve got to work for it more.”
Sophomore teammate Carley Sullivan said that Hejny’s dedication, not only to bowling but also to other commitments, has made her someone to look up to.
“Miranda is one of the sweetest girls I know. No matter what we have going on school-wise or with bowling, she always seems to make time to get all her school work done, see her friends, make it to church, and see her family when she can,” Sullivan said.
Hejny said that even with the success that she has found, she is still drawn back to the opinion of the people at her roots.
“Back home there are youth bowlers who just think that me bowling in college is so cool,” she said, “and I’m the only one from our whole high school program since it began that has gone to college and bowled. And I think that’s really special.”
This story first appeared in the March 8, 2018 issue of The Vantage.