UCA softball player, Jenna Wildeman, had quite the freshman season as she has been awarded many honors.
Those include first-team All-Conference, Southland Conference Freshman of the year, National Fastpitch Coaches Association South All-Region First Team, New Balance/NFCA Golden Shoe award, which goes to the nation’s quickest players, and first-team Academic All-Conference, which is voted on by head coaches, sports information directors and academic/compliance staff members from each SLC institution.
Most notably, she was given the distinct honor of SLC Student-Athlete of the Year. This award is voted by the SLC awards committee, which consists of one administrator from each of the 13 member schools and is presented to one student-athlete who achieves excellence in both academics and athletics.
Wildeman credits her team to her achievements, saying “It was an honor and really exciting because we all worked so hard this year to get to where we were and achieve what we did throughout the season.”
While she was grateful for the numerous honors, she said the best award would have been to win the SLC tournament. “That would have been the perfect ending but we had a great season, and it’s one I’ll remember forever.”
Born in Bentonville, Ark, Wideman began playing softball at age five and played throughout high school, while attending Bentonville High.
She credits her coaches there for being “amazing,” as well as having a great team. Notably, she played with two other girls, Morgan Nelson and Megan Crownover, who are also members of the Sugar Bears. The three have been playing together since they were six years old, according to Wildeman.
Wildeman cites her parents as a large part of her career, saying they are why she began playing. “They have believed in me through everything, and they have given me more support than I could ever ask for,” she said.
UCA did not have to do much recruiting as Wildeman had her sights on the university in the seventh grade when she began attending camps and fell in love with the school, the campus itself, and its athletics programs.
“This school feels like I’m at home. UCA has great values and meaning behind it when looking past just softball,” she said.
Further giving credit to those around her, Wildeman said her teammates are “amazing” and her coaches are “such awesome people.” She said simply being around her team is so fun that it adds an even greater love of the game.
Her head coach, David Kuhn, praised Wildeman’s character in the classroom as well as on the field.
“She just takes a lot of pride in what she does and works hard,” Kuhn said. “She checks all the boxes as an outstanding student-athlete on and off the field.”
Kuhn noted he has not seen a player accomplish what Wildeman accomplished this season in his time as a UCA coach and that it was incredible to watch. “It was really something special and I hope she can continue to do that,” he said.
Wildeman led the NCAA in stolen bases by 10 with a total of 56. She also led the SLC with 69 hits, led the team with a batting average of .390 and 43 runs, and had 16 RBIs.
Wildeman also said that the team pushes each other to work hard and be better, but at the end of the day, they still love each other.
“I have memories with these girls I’ll cherish forever.”