Remembering Patrick…

As a young coach, you never anticipate yourself having to deal with such tragedy so soon…and quite frankly, if ever at all. Whether our guys were extremely close to Patrick, or just getting to know him in his first few months on campus, this has definitely affected all of us in the Wabash Swimming and Diving family. Through the countless phone calls and e-mails we have received from alumni, former coaches, coaches at neighboring colleges or universities, the impact is quite apparent…and the support has been tremendously appreciated

When I was asked to speak today, I could not help but wonder whether my perspective would do justice to the raw emotion that has been circulating amongst my guys or this entire campus these last 48 hours. I can only hope that what I share with all of you today will provide some level of comfort knowing Patrick cared so much about everything Wabash College had to offer him.

Today is about Patrick Woehnker. Today is about something larger than life itself. Today is about coming together as a community to recognize the enthusiasm and commitment this young man brought to Wabash College, his fraternity and the swimming and diving program.

During the recruiting process, Patrick was not someone we were heavily recruiting. He had sent messages with his interests in the college, and we had been in contact with him through mailings and a few phone conversations, but when Patrick came to visit campus during one of the admissions visit days, there was something about him that caught our attention—something that would catch every coach’s attention. Patrick had a sincere desire to attend Wabash College.

Patrick made it very clear to us on that day that Wabash was his number one choice…and that he had planned to apply ‘Early Decision.’ Wabash was where he wanted to be—he wanted to be a part of the tradition, he wanted to be a part of camaraderie, he wanted to be a part of the swimming and diving program. Regardless of his talent level or his immediate level of impact on our team, no coach can turn away someone who wants to be a part of your program or your school as much as Patrick did.

I remember after he left town that afternoon—the day of his visit—I went back to my computer and ‘Googled’ him…looking for any times he may have had or any meets he may have participated in recently. Rather than finding what it is that I was looking for, his MySpace page popped up. I remember clicking on the link that took me directly to his profile and browsing around to see what all he had posted on his page. I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular, but I was curious. I was taking advantage of the opportunity to explore who Patrick Woehnker really was—what his interests were, what his favorite music was, what his hobbies might have been. In recruiting, I have found that the more you can relate to your student-athletes or the more experiences you have in common, the easier it is to find…a connection.

Looking back through e-mails I kept on file from Patrick, I wanted to share with you a conversation he and I had after our former head coach, Peter Casares, announced he was stepping down to take a similar position at Bates College in Maine. To me, it is the most perfect sentiment to how much Patrick was looking forward to being a part of the Wabash community.

May 15, 2007:

Hey Kyle I think I will make this e-mail very informal, and very ungrammatically correct (starting now). I must say meeting you I was a shy guy and feel i should probably start talking now because i am looking forward to swimming with you guys for the next 4 years, but to stay on task. The best part about Wabash swimming to me is that it offered a second chance. I rarely had swimming recruit information until one day i recieved a large envelope from Wabash College and the letterhead said swimming and diving. My face lit up. I was so excited to get a second chance and no matter who the coach is I will do my damndest to do my best. I was really looking forward to being coached by Pete. i heard nothing bad about him, let’s face it every coach has their quirks but the only thing i heard was he pushes you hard. I hear Wabash will push you past your limits and i know they will get a coach that will push you past those limits, just like Pete, and i can’t wait to get down there and meet the new coach and maybe i could say more than a few sentences to you. haha (i have a sense of humor just so you know)


Patrick Woehnker

Class of 2011

P.S. It feels good saying class of 2011

May 16, 2007:

Patrick–Thanks for the e-mail message. You are in the same position I was in when I was going to college, so I hear you when you said how excited you were to see swimming and diving letterhead. I was never really recruited when I was in high school, but I knew where I felt most comfortable. I knew I wanted to go to Wittenberg because it just felt right.

Regardless of who is at the helm here, this program will continue to be one of the more dominant programs in DIII swimming in the midwest.† It will be awesome for you to be a part of that regardless of how many letters you have received from us, how many phone calls you got, etc. Wabash has so much that makes the experience so special, and I am excited that you have the opportunity to come in here and make it a reality for yourself. I think you will surprise people here.

I’d love to sit and chat when you get on campus and I look forward to watching you succeed here, bud.

Enjoy the rest of the week…keep in touch!


May 16, 2007:

Alright depending on what we do orrientation or whether you are around campus at the time, i will come sit down with you and chat. don’t worry, once we get going i will talk for hours, unlike the past. Anyway i just wanted to get you an email expressing my earnest in talking with you and to get that done as soon as possible.

Patrick loved to talk, loved to share in conversation, loved the time he spent with those around him—his Wabash family.

Finally, I wanted to share with you what Patrick wrote in his questionnaire we mail out to all incoming freshmen over the summer months regarding what his goals may have been for the year and what he was looking forward to the most when it comes to swimming and diving.

We asked him, “What do you like most about swimming / diving?” His response was simple, “The better you do is determined by how much effort you put forth.” As a whole, his statement there can be a lesson to all of us—the better we do is determined by how much effort we put forth.

We also asked him, “What are your goals at Wabash when it comes to swimming / diving?” His response was very much to the point, “Better times, new friends, good coaching and the experience to swim in college.” I can only hope that in the three short months we had with him, that we had given him exactly what he had hoped for.

I would like to leave you with these few things:

• Don’t take life for granted—tell your friends how much you care for them, turn to your teammates and tell them how much they mean to you, hug your loved ones, tell your folks how much you appreciate the gift of life they have given to you

• Introduce yourself to someone you have never met before—there is something unique and special about each and every one of us, there is so much to learn from one another

And finally…

• Remember Patrick, remember his spirit, but most importantly remember his love for Wabash College

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5 Responses to Remembering Patrick…

  1. jared woehnker says:

    This is Patricks little brother Jared. Im so glad to see someone take the time and put up a page about my brother. It seemed to me as of reading all of the different stories that he was thought very highly of there at Wabash. It is nice to see that Patrick wasnt just loved at home but was also loved down there as well. I just wish that you wouldnt have had to write the report about him.
    10/7/88 TO 10/28/07

  2. P Casares says:

    Well done. My thoughts and prayers have been with you all and the Woehnkers.

  3. nina grech says:

    What a beautifully honest and sincere tribute to your young swimmer!
    Kyle, I am so very proud of you for working through your own grief and emotions to help so many in the Wabash community to find some source of comfort during this tragic time. You are truly an inspiration, strong, mature, kind, and sensitive,to all of us. It was good to talk to you. I’m glad I took the time to read your tribute to Patrick. Love you! Mrs. Grech

  4. Anne Woehnker says:

    Dear Jared and the Woehnker Family,
    I want to send to you my deepest and most sincere sympathy for the loss of your brother, son and friend, Patrick. Although I had never met Patrick, as I have read all the tributes in his honor, I know he was a super wonderful human being and was loved and admired by so many. We do share the last name, Woehnker, as my father is your grandfather’s cousin. I have a 4 year old son, Noah Patrick Woehnker, who I named after my brother, David Patrick Woehnker. I am now honored to also have my son share the name Patrick Woehnker with such an outstanding young man as your brother. My wish is that Noah may become the fine young man that Patrick became. May happy and fond memories of Patrick help ease your pain during this difficult time.
    Most sincerely,
    Anne and Noah Patrick Woehnker

  5. Karina grubbs says:

    Jared i love you so much, you are so brave and my prayers are with you. Im so sorry for the loss of patrick. Thank you so much for putting the emails up…its really nice to look back and remember what he was like. Family reunions will never be the same without him but we will stick together and remain strong. I LOVE YOU PATRICK, WATCH OVER US. WE WILL NEVER FORGET YOU. WE WERE LUCKY FOR YOU TO BE IN OUR LIVES.