EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) – Don Walters, who has guided the University of Evansville’s cross-country program for the past 23 years and helped resurrect the athletics program at EU after a hiatus of more than 30 years, announced that he will retire from coaching at the end of the 2022 athletics season.
“I want to thank everyone at the University who helped make my dream come true,” Walters said. “Cross country and track and field require long hours of practice and commitment, as well as many hours of study for academics. I am proud that all the teams I have coached have succeeded in this task of juggling with great pride.
“We are a team at the University of Evansville. From the Admissions Department to the administration and support services of the Athletics Department, a lot of hard work goes into the daily work with our student-athletes. Without everyone on board and the long hours it takes, we wouldn’t have had the success we have had over the years.
“We are extremely grateful for Don’s leadership in our cross country and track and field programs and the impact he has had on the student-athletes he has coached,” said Associate Athletic Director Sarah Solinsky. main EU for internal operations / SWA. “His passion for the EU and the student-athlete experience has been evident throughout his career and we celebrate his countless contributions to our athletics department, the University and the local running community. “
Walters was named EU Cross Country Head Coach in the spring of 2000, and since then he has transformed the EU running program. When Walters arrived in the EU, the school record in the women’s 5-K was 18:33. Now the record is almost two minutes faster at 16:46.4, and its runners hold the top 15 times in the women’s 5-K and 6-K disciplines. On the men’s side, Walters runners have the nine fastest 10-K marks in school history, while also boasting 10 of the 15 fastest 8-K times in college history. school.
Prior to his arrival, Evansville had not competed in the sport of track and field since 1985. In the early 2000s, Walters began taking his teams to spring track meets to compete as individuals. Thanks to the persistence and growth of the running program, the EU will eventually officially reinstate athletics as a university sport in 2018, with Walters leading the way.
“I really want to thank Mark Spencer for his role in bringing athletics back,” Walters said. “The road to success has many ups and downs. You have to stay positive and never give up. I did it with the goal of bringing athletics back, and I thank Mark for sharing that vision.
Individually he has produced two EU Hall of Fame riders in Nick Waninger (HOF class of 2011) and Andrea Sonnenschein (HOF class of 2016). Current graduate student Anna Lowry and 2014 graduate Kelby Jenkins will also push to be considered Hall of Famers, with Lowry holding 10 different school records in cross country and track and being the MVC 10,000 champion. meters (outdoor) and 5,000 meters. (indoor) last season, while Jenkins holds the 6-K school record in cross country.
Walters riders have not only been successful on the course and on the track during his tenure as head coach, but also in the classroom and in the community. The EU women’s cross country team earned Academic All-America status in each of Walters’ 23 seasons as head coach, while the men’s earned the accolade 18 consecutive years. Walters’ runners were also heavily involved in community service, with various runners helping put on the college track and cross-country competitions throughout his tenure.
As much as Walters did to help the Purple Aces succeed on the course, track and classroom, he may have done more behind the scenes to provide EU racing programs with a home. When he arrived in 2000, Evansville did not have a home cross country course. In 2002 he designed and built the UE Cross Country Course in North Vanderburgh County. It hosted EU meets for 11 years, including hosting the Missouri Valley Conference Championships in 2005.
Then, in 2014, Walters designed and built the cross-country course at Angel Mounds, which hosted not only EU, but various high school and college meets in the Evansville area. It also hosted the 2015 and 2021 MVC Championships, as well as the 2022 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships last fall.
Walters helped renovate the former National Guard Armory building on campus to provide his teams with locker room space and a place to train indoors with plyometric workouts. He also helped create offices for the EU cross country and golf programs in the Armory building, while helping build lockers for the two EU basketball programs, as well as for the EU baseball team.
Walters’ final meeting as head coach is currently scheduled for May 13-15 in Des Moines, Iowa at the Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Championships. The NCAA preliminary rounds will take place May 25-28 in Bloomington, Indiana. A nationwide search for Walters’ replacement will begin shortly.
Copyright 2022 WFIE. All rights reserved.