As Kutztown University’s first women’s bowling recruit, Westmont Hilltop graduate Kayla Jones was determined to put the new program on the map once she first stepped foot on campus.
A four-year standout career followed as Jones was named 2012 Division II National Player of the Year as a senior. After helping the fledging squad prosper, Jones was recently one of seven student-athletes, including the first women’s bowler, to be inducted into the Kutztown Athletics Hall of Fame as part of the 42nd annual Class of 2021.
“When the athletic director called me, I was at practice with my team,” said Jones, now the women’s bowling coach at Long Island University. “I walked away because I saw the Kutztown number, their interim AD (Michelle Gober) said, ‘So I have some good news for you, you’re being inducted.’ I kind of teared up to be honest with you.
“It was happy tears of course. It was a relief. It brought back so many memories, all the hard work, late nights and long weekends.”
Becoming the first bowler inducted was an overwhelming feeling for Jones.
“It’s great. It’s nice because I’m still on the lanes with the girls that are there now,” she said. “Unfortunately, my team competes against them. It’s nice to just see the program continue to grow. Everything has kind of come full circle.”
Jones, who later became a three-time All-American, was coach Joseph Ambrose’s first signee to play during the 2008-09 season, when the Golden Bears went 98-54 in their second campaign. She made an immediate impact, becoming the first Division II bowler to ever earn Rookie of the Year and National Tenpins Coaches Association’s Bowler of the Year in the same season. After averaging 193.7 per game, she registered a school-record 275 to earn top rookie honors and a first-team nod on the all-Northeast Conference team.
Jones, named Kutztown’s team MVP all four seasons, also was an NEC first-team selection as a junior and senior. She was at the forefront of the 2010-11 team that advanced to the NCAA Championships for the first time, going 100-40.
As a senior, Jones compiled a 206.5 traditional team average to earn Division II Player of the Year as well as Kutztown Female Athlete of the Year in 2012, the first bowler to do so.
At an early age, Jones grew an appreciation for bowling.
“I technically started bowling around the age of 5,” she said. “My mom worked at Richland and Westmont Lanes, so I was at the bowling alley with her all the time.”
Now in her ninth season as a head coach at the Division I level, Jones has been involved with the sport for two and a half decades.
“I guess at first, I didn’t realize how much I loved it,” Jones said. “I would just do it all day and it became a routine, something that I enjoy doing without even thinking about it. I then was able to start actually bowling competitively in tournaments probably around the age of 8 or 9.
“The Keystone State Games actually came into Johnstown. I think that was probably one of the biggest things that really kind of turned the page for me competing. I was able to bowl in my home center at a tournament and win. So that was really exciting. I’m 30 now, so the last 25 years have always involved bowling in some aspect.”
She cherished her time learning the sport at Richland and Westmont Lanes.
“The people that worked at Richland Lanes, I watched them bowl. Anything they were doing or any advice that they would give, I would at least try it,” said Jones, a scholar-athlete at Kutztown.
The 2008 Westmont Hilltop graduate competed on the basketball and softball teams in high school, since no local schools sponsor bowling squads.
“Luckily my coaches understood that bowling was really my first sport,” Jones said. “I traveled often for bowling because there wasn’t anything close. We went all over Pennsylvania, we would drive to Ohio and Michigan frequently.”
Jones, named NEC Coach of the Year in 2012-13 in her first campaign, is the daughter of Rob and Mary Ann Jones, of Johnstown.