Will Shanel latest to thrill for St. Charles East

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St. Charles East swimmer Will Shanel was surprised to find himself on the podium at last year’s state finals after taking eighth in the 200-yard individual medley.

But for knowledgeable swimming fans, the site of a Shanel earning a state medal was nothing new.

Shanel is the sixth member of a well-known extended family to swim for the Saints and the fourth to medal. Both of his parents, Bill and Susan, swam at Indiana in the 1980s and Bill and his brother James represented powerhouse St. Charles teams three decades ago.

Bill led the Saints to state titles in 1979 and 1980, finishing second in the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle and swimming on two state-champion 400 free relays. Will was preceded by sisters Katie and Ashley. Ashley won a medal in the 400 free relay in 2009. Will’s cousin, James, medaled in the medley relay in 2002.

“[Will] has got a lot of background in swimming,” St. Charles East coach Joe Cabel said. “He has been raised in it. [His parents] provide stability because they’ve been through the ups and downs and they know the rewards that come at the end. They’ve been very supportive.”

Indeed, that support is why Will hasn’t been bothered by trying to live up to the tradition of his tight-knit family, which still lives in his grandparents’ house.

“Everyone knows the name Shanel around here so it’s definitely pressure,” he said. “But as I make a name for myself, more than anything it’s a motivation because everyone knows about the struggles and the hunger that you go through as a swimmer. We all kind of compare ourselves to each other at family gatherings.”

Shanel proved last year that he measures up. A three-year state qualifier who excels at distance swimming like his father, he shocked himself with his showing in the IM, an event that wasn’t on his radar until late in the season.

“That was a lucky shot,” Shanel said. “A week before sectionals my coach told me he’s putting me in the IM. I was a little stunned.”

Cabel made the move because Shanel had battled illness for much of the season, missing two weeks with the flu before Christmas and a couple more after it with stomach flu.

“Last year we switched it up with the 200 IM and the fly,” Cabel said. “He was sick early and never really got back to where he was. This year we’ll probably put him back in the 500 free. I think he’s a natural in the 500 free.”

That would seem to be the case. Bill still ranks among the Top 10 performers in school history and Will is aiming to knock his name off the board.”

Shanel already holds one school record as part of the 200 free relay and he is a half-second off the school mark in the IM.

“This year I’m really looking forward to that race,” Shanel said of the IM. “Definitely, I want to take down the school record and have that up there for a long time, hopefully.”

As the leader of a Saints team that has 14 newcomers, Shanel has an opportunity to make an impact in just about every event.

“He had a good summer and he’s worked on some things,” Cabel said. “He has a great fly and IM and he’s always been a great distance swimmer, so he has a lot of options and we’ll be using him in every stroke.”

Shanel will join Ashley next year in swimming for Truman State. His graduation will mark the end of an era, at least for this generation, at St. Charles East, which is why he’s determined to finish strong.

“I’m the caboose of the family,” Shanel said. “I’m trying to end on a good note.”

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