Next level


Contributed by Drew Shellenberger

Drew Shellenberger (left) poses with his fellow competitors after placing third in a Youth Olympic qualifying race in Ecuador on Jul. 1.

After 18 months of constant work, junior Drew Shellenberger achieved his goal of qualifying for the Youth Olympics, and though he’s excited about competing against the world’s best this October in Argentina, his future ambitions are set even higher.

Shellenberger is an elite competitor in the triathlon, which is a sport consisting of swimming, biking and running. He hopes to participate in the Olympics one day, but for now he has to focus on the task in front of him, the Youth Olympics.

He qualified last month by being the top American finisher in a competition in Ecuador.  

“(Qualifying for the Youth Olympics) was really just a moment of disbelief,” Shellenberger said. “It had been my goal for the past year and a half.”

To qualify for the Youth Olympics, Shellenberger had to compete in a number of triathlons. These triathlons have taken Shellenberger all over the place, ranging from Virginia to Wisconsin, and even to South America. Since March of this year, Shellenberger has competed in seven triathlons.

Four of these triathlons were part of the Junior Elite Series. Shellenberger won two of these races and took another crown in the North American Championship in Sarasota Florida in March. Shellenberger also competed two in out-of-country races in Brazil and at the qualifier in Ecuador.

The race in Ecuador played a vital role in Shellenberger’s ability to achieve his goal because it was a qualifying competition for the Youth Olympics.

This year, the Youth Olympics will be located in Buenos Aires, Argentina and last from Oct. 6-18.  Here, Shellenberger will be competing in two trialons, one being an individual race known as a sprint triathlon, and the other being a mixed relay, which is a team event. Shellenberger will be the only male representative running in the individual triathlon for the USA team.

This upcoming competition will require Shellenberger to miss some school, but it’s nothing he hasn’t dealt with before. According to Shellenberger, the way he keeps up with his academics is by transitioning into online schooling and teaching himself.

“(Teachers) would send (homework via email) and I would print it, do it and then scan it back,” Shellenberger said. “It was just very different trying to teach yourself everything.”

The love of competing in triathlons came to Shellenberger when he was just four-years-old when he wanted to be just like his father. His father, Todd Shellenberger, has been racing in triathlons for almost 30 years now. He is the one who helped enter Shellenberger in an age six-and-under triathlon.

“My first one I literally whistled the whole bike course,” Shellenberger said. “It was the most fun time I’ve ever had. That’s the reason I still do it today.”

The training that comes with being a multi-sport athlete is intense. Shellenberger runs cross country, competes in track and field and swims for SHS. He uses these as training mechanisms to help him with the triathlon. Then, he practices biking on his own.

According to Shellenberger, swimming and biking are his strengths when it comes to triathlons.

“I am a swim/biker for sure,” Shellenberger said.

Matthew Jeffries, the swim coach at SHS, has been coaching Shellenberger for nine years now.

“He is very driven, works towards his goal and he doesn’t give up on them,” Jeffries said. “Once he has a goal set, he doesn’t stop till he gets it.”

According to, Shellenberger’s fastest recorded race came on March 10 when he completed the North American Championship triathlon in 54 minutes and 51 seconds. This means Shellenberger completed all three courses in an average time of 18 minutes and 17 seconds.

According to Shellenberger, he has not received any college exposure yet due to triathlons only being a club sport in college. With college in his plans, he hopes he can land one of the few colleges that do give out scholarships for triathlons.  

However, his biggest goal is to reach the Olympics. With already being able to compete in the Youth Olympics, Shellenberger is looking to compete in the 2028 Olympic games, and he believes he will be able to reach this level.

“I am one of the best in my age range,” Shellenberger said.