Triple Threat

Southport freshman Drew Shellenberger wins USA Triathlon Youth national competition

Drew Shellenberger takes a break in between track and swimming practices at Southport High School.
*Photo by Nicole Davis

A 15-year-old Southport High School freshman recently won the national championship for the USA Triathlon Youth Elite Series. As number one youth triathlete in the country, Drew Shellenberger has no plans of slowing down.

“My goal is to become one of those people that fulfills their dreams and becomes an olympian someday in triathlon,” he said.

Drew is involved in the cross country, track and swimming teams at the high school. In season, he says he averages 15 hours a week running and 18-20 hours a week swimming.

“I’ve learned a lot of time management, balancing two practices plus schoolwork and everything else,” he said. “I’ve also learned to be mentally tough. We’ll do hard practices before pretty big meets. We’re still expected to go and do our personal best.”

He has been participating in triathlons for nearly 10 years now. He said youth can begin at age 6, but he started early. In the Youth Elite Series, the athletes swim 375 meters, bike 10 kilometers and run 2 1/2 kilometers.

Drew Shellenberger crosses the finish line at the USA Triathlong national championship. Photo courtesy of Tri Tornadoes Indy.

“It’s a lot of hard work and dedication,” Drew said. “You have to have people around you. I wouldn’t be what I am if I didn’t have my track teams, cross country team, swim team. If you train by yourself, it’s really hard. It’s hard to stay motivated. When you have people here that want the best for you and will push you to be your best, it helps you be accountable, to stay on your training plan.”

He said his family has also been a big part of it. He resides in Perry Township with his parents Todd and Jamie Shellenberger and sister, Erika.

“My dad has been my longtime “coach,’” Drew said. “He balances being a dad and a coach really well. Normally I ask my dad what I should do and he’ll tell me go for a 30-minute bike ride or we’ll make it up as we go along. Sometimes on the weekends, my dad has his own triathlon team, I’ll go out with him and do 35-40 miles on the bike. It’s great how we have it set up.”

Drew estimates that he has competed in more than 50 triathlons, so the family travels a lot. The USA Triathlon’s high school nationals were held on April 20 and 21 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He finished the race in 1 hour, 2 minutes and 35 seconds.

“It was a great feeling to cross the finish line and know that you had the win,” Drew said. “It took a little while to set in. I expected to be up front, but not as commanding as I was. It was a great feeling. My parents were right behind the finish line, basically. As I crossed, I walked over to them. they were jumping up and down.”

So what’s next?

“Just sophomore year,” he said. He will age out of the Youth Elite Series and enter into the Junior Elite Series, for ages 16 to 19, in 2018. This means longer distances and more competition, but also more opportunities to race and advance. As he wraps up his freshman year, he said he would like to thank all of the Southport administration and teachers for their support.

“To have so much flexibility with my school work, all of my teachers have been very flexible while still getting me to where I need to be,” he said. “It’s a great thing to have.”