Woolems adds to Pats’ UE connection

Herald Sports Writer

Ben Woolems is ready for the next step. Or the next several thousand, to be precise.


Woolems, a Heritage Hills high school senior and cross country runner who placed 20th at the state finals last fall, signed a national letter of intent to run for the University of Evansville on Wednesday.

This capped a process that was made easier by Purple Aces coach Don Walters, a Tecumseh High School graduate who coached at his alma mater for 11 years before arriving at Evansville.

“I know he cares about me and knows that I can help this program and be a successful runner in college,” said Woolems, who last fall also won sectional, finished second in regional and placed 12th at semistate.

Woolems visited the campus twice, met the team and felt comfortable knowing he could make an impact at a university that didn’t seem overwhelming.

“I like how it’s not too big,” said Woolems, the son of Jeff and Tammy of Santa Claus. “You can pretty much get from one side of the campus to the other in five minutes walking.”

There was also a sense of familiarity for Woolems with the team. Heritage Hills product Cody Stein is in his junior year with UE, and Northeast Dubois High School graduate Josh Genet is a sophomore. Woolems roomed with Genet during both visits, the second of which was on a recent weekend when the two played pingpong.

“He thought he could beat me, but I beat him three games out of four,” Woolems said, laughing.

There was also a Patriotic feeling with the Purple Aces. Heritage Hills track coach Nick Waninger ran at Evansville and dispensed advice to Woolems as he pondered his next move.

And as Woolems said: “Cody has gone there and done well, so that was reassuring for my decision.”

Waninger, who later earned a master’s degree in civil engineering at Southern Illinois University, told Woolems the Evansville experience would consist of more than simply running. He expounded on UE’s academic virtues. That appealed to Woolems, who hints that his next move is only the beginning.

“I really like the idea of getting out on my own and I like that Evansville really is a prestigious school,” said Woolems, who plans to major in a business-related field. “A lot of people there have an easier time getting into grad school and Evansville being a private school, people know it’s a good school, academically.”

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.

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