Friends take homecoming crowns

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Friends take homecoming crowns

Photo courtesy of Kendrick Jones

Photo courtesy of Kendrick Jones

Photo courtesy of Kendrick Jones

Photo courtesy of Kendrick Jones

Brea Joyner

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It’s spring 2014. Then-freshmen Kendrick Jones and Kaitlin Neal sit in a Waffle House booth on their PREP date. That night, they shared their stories, passions and dreams. Now, two years later, they shared the football field as Homecoming King and Queen.

Jones and Neal were crowned king

and queen of the 2016 Homecoming Court at the second annual Homecoming Pep Rally held at Malone Stadium.

When Kendrick, a senior communications-advocacy major from Lake Charles., first arrived to ULM, he saw a great opportunity to discover himself and get involved on campus.

“It’s been an amazing place to grow my past fours years,” Jones said.

Even though he is a well-known face around campus, he never imagined himself in a face-off for homecoming king. Jones admitted that he didn’t want to run at first.

Worries of criticism consumed his mind, until his friends and family encouraged him to snap out of it. He remembered how much the university has given him, and that this experience would be a great way to say thank you.

As Jones waited for the announcement of this year’s homecoming king, he swayed from side-to-side, wearing his Warhawk foam finger.

The announcer, Cory Crowe, announced the winner over the intercom.

“Congratulations…Kendrick Jones!”

Photo courtesy of Kendrick Jones

         Photo courtesy of Kendrick Jones

Jones heart dropped when he saw his name and picture as homecoming king on the megatron.

“Just to hear my name in Malone Stadium and to be surrounded by friends in that moment…it definitely moved my heart a lot,” Jones said.

Hearing his close friend and former PREP partner Kaitlin Neal announced as homecoming queen made the moment even sweeter.

Neal, a senior risk insurance and management major from Tioga, is heavily involved with campus and even won an award last spring for her involvement.

Unlike Jones, this was not Neal’s first walk of reign. She represented as sophomore maid in 2014, but this year, instead of reign dancing, she was preparing for her first dance.

“I was super apprehensive about running, especially with the wedding coming up,” Neal said.

“I also don’t have a competitive heart, so that made it a little hard for me, but my friends kept loving and encouraging me.”

Neal stood next to her fiancé Jamie Arnett on the Malone Stadium field as the stadium light blared on her dress.

Students cheered from the stands waiting for the announcement of their 2016 Homecoming Queen.

“Your 2016 Homecoming Queen is…,”

The court held their breath as Laura Jennings, director of Student Life and Leadership, made the announcement.

“Kaitlin Neal!”

Neal’s eyes welled with tears as Arnett pulled her in for a tight embrace.

Jones and Neal’s friendship shines beyond the crown. What started as a simple get-to-know-you date, transpired into the loving and supportive relationship they have today.

Jones described their friendship as an “amazing partnership that turned into a beautiful friendship.”

“She’s been there for me a lot of different areas of my life…and to share this experience with her…is priceless,” Jones said.

PREP Partners of the Year. PREP Leaders. King and Queen.