People of Preston swolemates

Story and video by: Hayley Robb

Photos by: Mariya Merkley and Alexus Smith

People of Preston is a campaign created to share the stories behind the faces that have shaped Western Kentucky University’s Raymond B. Preston Health and Activities Center over the years. The regular patrons and students are who make up the face of our facility. This campaign allows for our program to build trust and relationships with already loyal members to hopefully connect personally with even more of our Bowling Green community.

Ellie & Erik

Health and fitness was just something Western Kentucky University sophomore Ellie Ray grew up in. With a family-owned gym in Los Angeles and experience in teaching barre and yoga, the Preston Center was already a convenience for her but became a little more special when WKU sophomore Erik Williams began supervising the building. Erik grew up watching his siblings attend WKU while working at the Preston Center and found following in their footsteps to be an easy transition.

The two met through a mutual friend. Erik’s best friend was dating Ellie’s roommate at the time, which is why Erik would always coincidentally be over at Ellie’s house. He was hanging out with his friend. It was after spending so much time together that it just “kind of happened,” Ellie said.

“I just swooped her off her feet,” Erik said.

On their first date, they had pulled an all-nighter to watch movies together but Erik kept his distance the entire night.

“It was so awkward,” Ellie said. “He did not even touch me.” Erik would not even sit close enough to her to put his arm around her. He says it was all a part of his initial charm.

The two have been dating for one year and two months and have spent much of that time not just working out together at the Preston Center but building friendships with the employees and patrons that come in every day.

“There’s like a crew of regulars in Preston that we’ve kind of integrated ourselves with,” Erik said. “And it’s really kept us coming.”

Building a healthy lifestyle has become a central part to their relationship. Whether it’s fighting about what Erik can and cannot eat in the grocery store or making it a priority to have some “couple time” in the gym, Erik and Ellie consider the Preston Center to be more than a gym to them because of all of the people that have come into their lives because of their involvement.

Jessie & Ali

Jessie Wilson met Ali Rammal for the first time at a fraternity party. He was a pledge for the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and she was just attending the party. The two were just friends for a few years only seeing each other in passing at certain places.

“Like the gym,” Ali said.

The two credit the Preston Center to how their relationship really started. Jessie said they would always run into each other at the gym at the same time.

“We would chat a little bit,” she said. And then they’d go their separate ways hoping the “see you laters” would end up being true.

Jessie said Ali definitely made the first move. She was in the grocery store when he texted her. They had just been friends and hadn’t taken their relationship to next level when he said, “You’re an angel, Jessie, yeah?”

She said when he sent that everything changed – that’s when she knew he actually liked her.

They have now been dating for three months and the couple has developed a reputation of being one of the Preston Center’s most frequent “swolemates.” Jessie said Ali has really helped her with her “gainz” being that he is a personal trainer and has been working out for the past 6 years.

The two said they’re only downfall to health and fitness is their love for food. “We’re little piggies,” Ali said. They both have a bit of a sweet tooth for ice cream, cookies and cereal before bed that the working out kind of balances it out, Ali said.

“Honey Nut Cheerios are the best,” Jessie laughed. “But we try to be good too.”

They will be celebrating Valentine’s Day a day early at a music show in Louisville and working on the actual holiday – serving the many dinner dates of Valentine’s Day evening.

The Preston Center is where Jessie and Ali found each other and is where they looked forward to seeing each other every day.

“The Preston Center is more than a gym to me because that’s really where our relationship started so I like to come back here with him to kind of keep that going,” Jessie said.

Emily & Ben

The Hattie L. Preston Intramural Sports Complex is where WKU senior Ben Whalin met WKU junior Emily Cox one year ago. They met after an intramural soccer officiating shift last Fall 2017 and have since then been together for 11 months.

“And one day,” Emily said. Emily claims they met a little earlier than soccer season, Ben just doesn’t remember it.

What started out as coworkers quickly turned into something more when Ben found out Emily was interested in him.

“It’s going to sound so creepy, and it kind of is creepy,” Emily said. “I had the biggest crush on him and he did not know it so I would purposely pick up shifts to when he would be working.”

Emily said one time he needed a shift covered really bad so she picked it up just so he would be thankful and acknowledge her.

“He actually messaged me on the When to Work app and said, ‘Hey, thanks.’ And that was our first correspondence,” Emily laughed.

She said whenever he was playing intramurals she would always make sure she was the one with the iPad checking people in, forcing him to talk to her.

When none of her hints worked and Ben was still oblivious to her feelings for him, she took matters into her own hands. She walked with him to his car one night after officiating a soccer game and the two ended up standing outside in the parking lot just talking for 30 minutes. Emily said when Ben still didn’t ask for her number, she asked for his and they went on their first date later that week.

The Preston Center and intramurals is what brought Ben and Emily together. The two have even gained the reputation of being the “couple of intramurals,” Ben said. They also spend a lot of time inside the Preston Center working out together. Emily said it took her awhile to get over her “gymphobia” but now tags along with Ben all of the time.

It just feels like a family, Ben said.

Working with intramural sports over the past few years and participating in the leagues has also introduced the two to some of their closest friends. But most importantly, intramural sports is what brought the two in proximity of each other.

“The Preston Center is more a than a gym to me because it brought me the love of my life,” Emily said grinning at Ben.

Created By
Hayley Robb


Photos by: Mariya Merkley and Alexus Smith

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