PORTSMOUTH — When one pursues an extracurricular activity, he or she usually does it with the idea to form new friendships that will hopefully last throughout the course of time.
For Mia Jones, bowling became even more than just a hobby.
A graduate of the same high school that produced former NBA standout and future surefire Hall of Famer Dwayne Wade, Jones is making her own mark as a bowler.
Shawnee State’s taken notice, and will have the Richards (Ill.) High School standout on the women’s bowling roster for the 2020-21 season on forward.
“Being able to bowl at the collegiate level is a blessing,” Jones said. “I never would’ve thought that growing up, I would be bowling in college after high school. I’ve always thought that it would be a situation where I played in high school as a hobby for simple enjoyment factors. I didn’t grow up interested in bowling until I began high school competition.”
A standout bowler from her time competing at Richards, Jones immediately made a statement as a freshman, helping Richards win its fifth straight South Suburban Conference (SSC) championship and winning the conference competition individually to become an all-SSC honoree straightaway.
Richards later advanced to the IHSA State Tournament — as a result of Jones’ efforts after winning the IHSA regional held at Hinsdale.
As a sophomore, Jones helped Richards win its sixth straight SSC championship — and again bowled the conference’s top average with 210.2 pins.
She later became the only member of her team to qualify for the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Tournament.
In her junior season, Jones again proved to be the anchor of Richards’ squad, bowling — for the third consecutive season — the SSC’s top score and leading the Bulldogs to an IHSA regional runner-up finish by knocking down a team-best 1,096 pins.
The performance allowed Richards to return to the state tournament as a unit.
Jones then led Richards to its third state tournament in four years — and made it a personal 4-for-4 trip — by knocking down 1,180 pins to lead Richards to its second straight IHSA regional runner-up.
For her successes, Jones credits Richards for giving her the platform to simply compete and showcase her skills.
“Competing at Richards helped me become the bowler that I am now,” Jones said. “With the positivity from my coach and team, it helped me build my confidence. There was some difficulty with me being an African-American girl winning or placing at every tournament, but I would never let it bring me down. The surrounding schools had great competition, and it motivated me to become better. I believe that bowling at a collegiate level will help me become a great bowler.”
With Shawnee State, Jones’ recruitment was aided greatly by fellow Chicago native Skylar Lane, who encouraged Jones to team up with her inside the Bears’ program.
Lane and Jones will join Neuqua Valley product and upcoming sophomore Chloe Long to represent a growing Illinois-to-Ohio pipeline that the SSU bowling program has created.
“Skylar is actually a great friend of mine,” Jones said. “She told me about the great program that he (Sturgell) had going on. It immediately caught my attention, and I applied. It’s great not being the only one from Illinois, and it’s also great to have the opportunity to meet new people from various backgrounds.”
Jones, who plans to major in the stout nursing program that Shawnee State has to offer, is looking forward to setting new standards and busting through the goals that she has in place.
After all, bowling helped her go above and beyond the goals she had in place at Richards.
“Academically, I hope to be successful in becoming a nurse and maintain a strong GPA while going through school,” Jones said. “Athletically, I hope to build a great relationship with my teammates and coaches. I hope that my accomplishments in college will be three times the size of my high school achievements.”
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