Former WKU athlete works at new running store

Owners of TRAXRunning (left to right) Nick Wheet, Joe Wheet, Lilly Wheet and Chris Healey opened the location last August. The store is the first of its kind to specialize in running shoes and apparel in Bowling Green.

Monta Reinfelde

Bonita Paul worked hard every day while she was in college competing for WKU in cross-country and track.

Now the WKU graduate is tapping back into her running experiences.

Paul works at the newly opened TRAXrunning store, located in Kereiakes Park at 1240 Fairview Ave., helping runners purchase the newest products.

“I love it here,” Paul said. “It is like a family. I’ve been adopted.”

Paul came to WKU from South Africa in 2004 to compete in cross country and track on a full-ride scholarship and attained a degree in exercise science. She completed her graduate studies in 2008.

Paul said the skills and knowledge gained during her time at college are invaluable for life and career.

The store was opened Aug. 15 by owners Lilly Wheet, Joe Wheet, Nick Wheet and Chris Healy.

Because of all the employees’ athletic backgrounds, the atmosphere in the store is great, said Joe Wheet. His main concern is not to make a lot of money. It is, however, to promote sports in Bowling Green.

“We want people to come in here and to hang out,” Joe Wheet said. “The rule of the shop is: If there is coffee and food on a counter, it is free. Everything else costs, because we have to have our lights on.”

Joe Wheet said he is looking for people such as Paul who are disciplined and well rounded personalities.

“She is great. People love her,” he said. “Bonita is very humble. She is like an adopted daughter to me.”

Paul said competing in sports helped her find a job after graduation.

“I can relate to people who are injured or struggling to get motivated,” she said. “I know how it feels. I know it is hard, so that is a good connection and a benefit that helped me a lot.”

Paul has always put academics before everything else. A degree is more important to employers, she said. However, athletics is something that sets a person apart.

“Actually it was more my background into my major than anything else,” Paul said. “You have to have an education to back up your knowledge, plus experience.

“It is a juggle. You have to figure it out.”

Her sophomore through senior year, Paul worked at ARAMARK, a catering company.

“It does break up your life,” she said. “That way it is not just running and studying. It gives you something else to do, and I don’t mind being dirty in the kitchen.”

Paul said that sometimes people who she works with are intimidated by her athletic background.

“Just because I ran in college doesn’t mean I am a better athlete by you in any means,” she said. “Because athleticism is a lot of aspects, dedication, determination, all those things fall into what makes a true athlete.”

Paul said she likes working at the store, because selling shoes and apparel is not the only concern. The owners and staffers are interested in customers’ well-being as well.

“We evaluate people individually,” she said.

TRAXrunning store also offers professional gait analysis that is done by a doctor of physical therapy and one of the owners of the store, Nick Wheet.

“We place a person on a treadmill and video tape them doing a full body assessment,” he said. “It helps to diagnose knee, ankle, hip or back pain.”

The store also suggests people to join its daily running groups.

The store owners plan to launch Bowling Green’s first marathon on Nov. 12, 2012.

The store has not gained many customers from WKU yet, but Joe Wheet said all WKU students who show their ID cards will get 10 percent off.

“You don’t have to be an athlete to run,” he said. “Anybody can run.”