Friends, family and members of the Killeen community gathered at Billy Bob’s Burgers on Monday to welcome home bobsledding world champion Kehri Jones.
“I love being back home,” said Jones, who was born and raised in Killeen. “I’m just excited to bring back some hardware to Killeen.”
Jones arrived at the welcome home event with her trophies and medal from the 2017 International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation championships, where she broke the track start record with a time of 5.12 seconds in Koenigssee, Germany.
Teachers from Jones’ middle school and high school days were in attendance and helped organize the event.
“When I was talking to her today, I said, ‘Bobsledding? That wasn’t even in your plan,’” Angenet Wilkerson said of Jones, whom she taught in junior high school.
Jones graduated from Ellison in 2010 at the age of 16 before enrolling at Baylor on a track scholarship.
While becoming a two-time all-Big 12 sprinter, Jones also earned her master’s degree in exercise physiology.
Jones was referred to two-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor by a conditioning coach at Baylor to join Team USA in 2014 when Meyers Taylor was recruiting a bobsled brakeman.
The former Eagle was welcomed home by a group of current Ellison cheerleaders who greeted her with chants upon arriving at Billy Bob’s.
“To see someone from the same town as you, and went to the same school do that, it’s kind of cool,” said Ellison cheerleader Kayla Hunter.
Jones hugged each girl as if they were old friends and before asking each of them what they wanted to do upon graduating.
“I know not a lot of people get to experience stuff like this or meet somebody like this,” Jones said. “And I just feel like I’m a regular girl and I should just share everything with everybody.”
The welcome home party was open to the public and Jones invited everyone in attendance to take photos and try on her world championship medal.
“She loves this,” said Jones mother, Tametra.
For Jones, she’s enjoying the ride that comes with being a champion but says the reality of it all has only just started to sink in.
“A lot of the stuff I didn’t think was a big deal,” she said of breaking records and winning the world championship. “I didn’t really think that it was a big deal because I just thought it was normal.”
She attributes her idea of normalcy in competing because of the culture her pilot, Meyers Taylor, instilled in her.
“We don’t accept anything but success, so when I got out there and I started doing good, nobody started treating me like I was a phenom,” Jones said.
Now that she’s had time to process it all and take a step back, “I’m almost in shock at what I was able to do and how fast I was able to do it.”
Wilkerson said she’s known that a bright future was in the cards for Jones since she was in the seventh grade.
“I remember she was in the Junior Olympics for the long jump in middle school,” she shared. “And in high school she ran track.
“Was she preparing to bobsled? No, she was doing what she loved,” Wilkerson said, adding that Jones’ passion in life was able to carry over from one sport to the other.
Being a bobsledder from Killeen raises a lot of eyebrows, but anyone who knows Jones will tell you that the sport found her.
While she’s disappointed that she won’t be in South Korea competing with Team USA in the Winter Games, when it comes to her future, she’s going to do what has worked so far: Let her path find her.
Until then, she plans to catch up on some family time, experience her first Mardi Gras in Louisiana and eat some rainbow chicken from her favorite hometown spot.
Whether Jones decides to continue bobsledding or take up her career field, Tametra will be happy with whatever path she takes.
“I would like Kehri to be whatever it is she wants to be and succeed in it, whatever it is.”