Name it and Janelle Shaffer has probably competed in it over the course of her career.
From the track to the long jump pit and even the hurdles, the Cloverleaf senior has shown her versatility.
While head coach Frank Peters knows he can place Shaffer in just about anything, the Colt still has one more event she may take a crack at.
“I’ve never tried throwing, but on senior night I would like to do the discus,” she said, referring to the team’s final regular-season dual against Barberton on Tuesday. “As a freshman and sophomore I did hurdles, but I think I found my niche sprinting, and long jump is definitely my favorite.”
Shaffer showed her flexibility in the fall when she ran cross country for the first time, becoming the team’s fastest runner. This spring she is among the Medina County leaders in the long jump, 200 meters and as a leg on the 4×2.
“She can do anything,” Colts jumps coach Kelly Zdelar said. “I guess we all can just fight over her. She will do anything you ask and is a natural athlete.”
A close relationship
Zdelar, a former Cloverleaf standout, has coached Shaffer since the eighth grade and has seen her grow from a quiet middle school student into one of the top all-around athletes in the area.
Shaffer was home-schooled prior to that, but Zdelar has been there for the 18-year-old through good times and bad.
After Shaffer’s mother Cindy passed away in 2006 after a battle with breast cancer, the two became even tighter.
“She was a huge help through those tough days,” Shaffer said. “She would come over and give me a big hug and help me work through it. We just have a bond. Especially since she understood my situation, she was always there to talk to. It was awesome to have her always there.
“She’s an amazing coach and would do anything for you. She knows how to cheer you up and be supportive.”
From working through one of the most traumatic moments in her life to adjusting to life as a student in the classroom, Shaffer has had Zdelar to lean on.
“She is like my daughter and I love her like one of my own,” Zdelar said. “My daughter is way jealous of my track kids. I think each coach on this staff loves her and I’m just happy to know her.”
The long jump is close to Zdelar’s — and Shaffer’s — heart.
Zdelar held the school’s mark in the event for over two decades with a leap of 16 feet, 6¾ inches before Mandy Fugate broke it in 2002 (17-3¾).
So when preparing for this upcoming season, the coach had a simple message to her apprentice.
“I told her she wasn’t allowed to graduate until she broke the school record (in the long jump),” she joked.
It didn’t take long for Shaffer to turn her coach’s words into reality, as the 5-foot-6 senior unleashed a jump of 17-6 at the Nordonia Knight Relays to help Cloverleaf’s long jump relay finish second.
“I never would’ve expected it all,” Shaffer said with a laugh. “I thought I jumped around 16, probably 16-something, but then they said 17-6 and, well, I was quite excited.”
For the season, Shaffer is undefeated in the event and has made incredible strides after jumping just 16-4½ a year ago.
But the hard-working Shaffer has been working on her strength and technique with Zdelar and Peters since the winter, and it’s all paying off.
“I’ve really grown in that area, but I never really expected to get this far,” Shaffer said. “We tried a lot of different methods from last year and I’ve been able to work more in the air. I’ve worked on that kind of movement a lot.”
Shaffer is no stranger to the school record books, as she joined teammates Kelani Nuckols, Jenna Elswick and Taylor Detwiler on a regional-qualifying 4×2 relay that broke the mark last spring and has the county’s fastest time this season.
Best training partner
Shaffer doesn’t need a big weekend invitational to find some stiff competition. She has that in practice every day with Nuckols, the second-best long jumper in the county.
While the two compete against one another for bragging rights, their relationship is as close as it can get off the track.
“Being able to run and jump with her is great,” Shaffer said. “I just love her. We have the same goals and it’s definitely great to push each other and have that team competitiveness.”
The next level
Shaffer’s ability to be a jack-of-all-trades has helped her not only make a name for herself, but landed the Colt an opportunity to compete for Muskingum College, where she will run track and cross country.
While she’s excited about what the next level has in store, she’s focused on the postseason, which is just weeks away.
She got a taste of the regional level last season with the 4×2 team, but has high expectations of herself in the long jump.
“I haven’t made it out of districts (in long jump),” she said. “Hopefully, I will have some good jumps to do it this time.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shaffer is jack of all trades