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State champion distance runner dealing with injury in final high school season

By Terry Boehmker
NKy Tribune sports reporter

Ethan Shuley’s high school running career may have been cut short by a recurring injury, but the Highlands senior still plans to join the cross country and track teams at Brigham Young University in Utah.

After winning the Class AA boys’ state country meet for the second consecutive year last November, Shuley said he started having pain in the Achilles tendon in his left leg when he ran. He hasn’t competed in any high school track meets this spring to give the strained tendon a chance to fully heal.


Highlands senior Ethan Shuley has won state titles in cross country and track. (Photo by Jackson Sports Photography)

During a recruiting visit to Brigham Young last February, Shuley made coaches aware of his problem. At that time, he was hoping the tendon would heal so he could compete in his final season of high school track and meet the target times in distance events that the coaches set for their prospective recruit.

Since he has been unable to do that this spring, Shuley doubts if he’ll receive a scholarship offer from Brigham Young. But he still plans to enroll at the NCAA Division I university that’s owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons.

“As of now, it’ll probably be a walk-on situation for me,” Shuley said. “But I think I could easily earn (a scholarship) back if I get healthy.”

Shuley, who is a member of the Mormon faith, was named Runner of the Year in Kentucky boys’ high school cross country in 2014 after he won his first Class AA state title in 15 minutes, 58 seconds over 5,000 meters. He followed that up with first-place finishes in the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter runs at the Class AA state track meet last spring.

He got his senior year off to a good start last fall with a personal best time of 15:18 in a cross country race during the regular season. He then won the Class AA state meet in 15:33, which was 25 seconds faster than his winning time last year.

Shuley was running so well that he felt capable of meeting the target times set by the Brigham Young coaches in high school track events this spring. He said he needed to run 1,600 meters in 4:09 and 3,200 meters in 9:10, but the Achilles tendon injury didn’t allow him to do that.

“Last year, I strained it really bad and was out for a couple months, but I came back and had a great track season,” Shuley said. “This year, it hasn’t been as bad as last year when I could barely walk sometimes. It just keeps delaying my training. Every time I start building up it just happens again. It’s been pretty hard on me.”

Highlands cross country and track coach Brian Alessandro, who has helped Shuley develop as a runner over the last four years, knows he’ll be an asset to the Brigham Young program after his tendon heals and he can begin training once again.

“Ethan Shuley is one of the best runners the state of Kentucky has ever seen. I am 100 percent confident he can be a tremendous collegiate runner,” Alessandro said. “Ethan is willing to do whatever is necessary to have success. I believe his work ethic in running shows his commitment to his personal goals and will translate to success in wherever life takes him.”

A large percentage of male students at Brigham Young serve as Mormon missionaries in different parts of the world at some point in the college career. Shuley may delay enrolling in college and go on a two-year mission trip, which would give his tendon a lot more time to heal before he competes on the collegiate level.

“It would help in terms of resting for two years,” he said. “My legs would certainly be stronger and I wouldn’t have to deal with the recurring injuries after that.”

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