VERSAILLES – Luke Shellhaas’ intense work ethic allowed him to reach unprecedented heights at Versailles and now he’ll get to test himself in college as he committed to the Ohio Northern University track and field team on Tuesday.
Shellhaas, the son of Dave and Beth Shellhaas, will be a pole vaulter for Ohio Northern.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “It will give me something to do, and I’m super excited for a new journey in my life and see where the path takes me.”
Shellhaas has had a big senior season for Versailles as he set the program’s pole vault record. He’s cleared 14 feet 8 inches and hopes to take the mark even higher when he competes this weekend at the Ohio High School Athletic Association state track and field meet in Columbus.
“I’m sitting fourth right now, but I’d like to get, at least try, to get that championship,” the Versailles senior said. “But I’ll probably be satisfied with top three. The goal is to get over 15 feet to increase that school record just a little bit.”
Versailles’ pole vault record had stood since 1972 so Shellhaas taking it down was a major feat.
“All the offseason stuff he’s done and even during season, the extra stuff, those are the things that’s the difference between a vaulter who doesn’t go to state and one who does,” Versailles track and field coach Mike Goubeaux said. “And so that’s a testament to his work ethic.”
Shellhaas’ coaches said pure effort is what made him the vaulter he is today.
“There’s a lot of things people are blessed with,” Versailles pole vault coach Adam Schwartz said. “Luke is not blessed with height, speed, anything. Everything he got on the pole vault he worked for and he worked really hard for. And he’s now to the point where there may be vaulters that are faster than him and there may be vaulters that are stronger than him, but there is not going to be a vaulter who wants it more than him, and there’s not going to be a vaulter who looks better than him on the pole. He’s just put in so much time on a pole and so much time dedicated to pole vaulting.”
Shellhaas is dedicated to improving his craft even more when he gets to Ohio Northern. He’d like to set the school record there, qualify for nationals and maybe even win a national championship.
“Just set high goals,” he said.
Ohio Northern is an NCAA Division III program that competes in the Ohio Athletic Conference along with Baldwin Wallace University, Capital University, Heidelberg University, John Carroll University, Marietta College, the University of Mount Union, Muskingum University, Otterbein University and Wilmington College.
This season the Polar Bears sent seven athletes to the NCAA Division III outdoor national championships. They finished the season with multiple national champions, including Maddy Reed in the women’s pole vault.
Shellhaas, who plans to study mechanical engineering, was drawn to Ohio Northern because of its great athletics and academics.
“I made the decision to go to Ohio Northern University on the basis of they have a great track program and great academics there,” he said. “I have lots of goals for the upcoming years in my college track career.”
Goubeaux expects Shellhaas to excel at Ohio Northern as the level of competition he faced throughout his high school career has prepared him for the rigors of college.
“He’s competing against guys every week in Darke County,” Goubeaux said. “They get together, all the best vaulters in the county get together, even regionally speaking, and they vault just like they do up in the northeast. So he’s exposed to that. He’s up there watching what they’re doing, and they’re learning from each other.”
The experiences Shellhaas gains at Ohio Northern will be great for him, the Polar Bears and society in general, Schwartz said.
“I’m very excited for Ohio Northern,” Versailles’ pole vault coach said. “They’re going to have a very good vaulter. And I’m excited for everyone else because we’re going to end up with a very, very good mechanical engineer out of this. And I’m very excited for Luke.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4312. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.