Rugby player raises farm animals

Junior wingman Kayla Heal will play a crucial role on the field this season for the Panther rugby team.

Heal is from the small town of Varna, where she excelled in multiple sports at Midland High School. Heal lettered in volleyball, cross country and track and was a record-setting athlete. Heal set school records in the 100 and 200-meter dashes, the long jump and the shot put before committing to Eastern to play rugby.

As well as excelling on the field, Heal was a member of the scholastic bowl and a member of the High Honor Roll. Heal is currently majoring in kinesiology and sports studies.

Since coming to Eastern in 2009, Heal has enjoyed a great deal of success on the rugby field. Although she has become a regular in the Panther lineup, she did not always see rugby as her collegiate sport of choice.

“I got a lot of recruiting letters for track, but I got a letter from Eastern and it wasn’t for track. My coach sat me down and talked with me and told me it was rugby,” Heal said. “At first I wasn’t going to play rugby, but my teammates talked me in to it. I’m really glad I made the decision to play. I love this sport more than anything. It’s so much fun, and I love my teammates.”

Off the field, Heal spends her time hanging out with friends, taking care of her pets and cooking.

Coming from the farm town of Varna, Heal has raised a variety of animals. She has raised chicken, geese and ducks.

“We used to have all sorts of poultry, but now we just breed coonhounds and we have peacocks,” Heal said.

“I also have a pet ground squirrel that I love very much.”

Along with her love for animals, Heal is also quite the cook.

“I love to cook. I live with six other girls and me and one of my roommates always take turns cooking for everyone in the house.”

In one full season, and an injury-plagued freshman season, Heal has already tallied enough points throughout her career to rank in the top 15 in school history for points, trys and ROTs. Going into her junior season, Heal looks to take her game and her team to the next level.

“I think we could definitely go undefeated this season. Despite our low numbers, we are a very strong team,” Heal said. “We are very confident in what we can do.”

This season, Heal will take upon a new challenge, as she will be making a position change. Heal will still be used as a wing, but this season she will also be lifting and playing the flanker position.

“For the past two years I have been strictly wing, but due to injuries I am going to be lifting and running the line outs this season; which is the exact opposite of my wing position,” Heal said.

Kayla Heal and the Panthers will be in action this Saturday, as they will host the Grand Valley State Lakers to Lakeside Field at 1 p.m.

Jordon Pottorff can

be reached at 581-7944

or [email protected].