Johnsonburg native Michael Shuey is no stranger to accolades when it comes to throwing javelin.
As a member of the Johnsonburg High School track and field team, Shuey won the PIAA Class AA boys javelin title in 2012. In his college career at Penn State, he won a pair of Big Ten championships in the event and set the PSU school record in the event.
As recently as July, Shuey won the U.S. national championship and is currently slotted as the No. 28 javelin thrower in the world.
And yet, despite all of that, the best is potentially yet to come for the former Ram.
Currently, during the track and field offseason, Shuey is residing in Chula Vista, Calif., at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Center — a training facility sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee for members of Team USA — and is continuing to hone his skills at the event with the hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“I live on-site. It’s like a college campus here, but without the classes,” Shuey said. “There’s a dining hall, sports medicine center, weight room and dorms. We stay in dorm suites and have roommates also doing track and field. It’s a nice little team here.”
Then again, it’s become a bit mundane, too, Shuey says. The athletes at the Center have heavily regimented schedules that consist of the same things day after day.
“Every day is the same, every week is the same, and every month is the same,” he said.
His typical schedule consists of waking up at 8 a.m. and having breakfast before returning to his dorm for a protein shake and rehab activities.
That’s followed by lunch, typically a salad, and then practice — 150 throws a day, usually — at 2 o’clock and then a weight room session until 6 p.m. Then he heads to the sports medicine room for rehab and stretching, then has dinner at 8.
“I do that every day, and it’s boring, but you have to be boring to progress the way you want in this sport,” he noted. “You have to be regimented and can’t deviate from the plan very much.”
While the daily practice routine can get stale, his travel schedule during seasons certainly isn’t. In addition to the U.S. national championship event in July, Shuey has traveled across the United States and even internationally with Team USA.
In August, he traveled to Lima, Peru, for the Pan American games, where he placed fourth overall. Then, in September, he visited Minsk, Belaruse for a USA vs. Europe match in which he threw his personal best throw of 83.21 meters en route to a fourth-place finish. His final international stop this year was to Doha, Qatar, for the IAAF World Championships, in which he placed 11th overall.
He says he doesn’t have a favorite place he’s visited, because all of the cities so far have been good in their own ways.
“They were all so different,” he noted. “Peru was interesting. It was in the Southern Hemisphere so it was winter when we were there. We went in July (the event lasted July 26 until Aug. 11) and there were winter conditions — 40 degrees and a mist.
“Belarus was beautiful… All the people were really friendly, and the architecture was amazing. There were some World War museums we looked around in and saw Soviet-era war stuff. That was pretty neat.”
These trips were preceded by Shuey winning the U.S. national championship on July 26. On his final throw of the event, Shuey hurled the spear a then-personal best 82.85 meters, placing him in first.
“It’s been a dream come true so far,” Shuey said. “I spent, I think, nine years doing this sport, and a lot of it was battling through adversity… I progressed to the point where I won the USA championship on my last throw, and it was kind of like a miracle moment for myself. It was a lot of fun.
“To make the national team and travel the world has been really special, and my family was able to travel to the world championships (in Qatar). It’s been fun for the whole family so far.”
But as Shuey alluded, it hasn’t always been easy. While at Penn State in 2015, he needed elbow reconstruction surgery and wasn’t sure whether he’d be able to bounce back fully from the injury. It forced him to reconfigure his technique entirely, and he also adjusted his diet.
“I wasn’t sure if those were the right changes to make with my diet and the way I exercised and threw the javelin,” he said.
It certainly has paid dividends since then. After college, Shuey has progressively risen through the world ranks, and currently sits at No. 28 in the world. If he can maintain that ranking, he will be able to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games.
He can also qualify at certain points in the 2020 qualifying season, which begins in March, and especially so at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, which will be held at the University of Oregon.
In javelin, a throw of 85 meters automatically qualifies for the Olympics. Shuey is close, with a personal best of 83.21, but only three athletes in the history of the U.S. have cracked the 85-meter mark.
Beyond that, the Olympic Committee takes the best 32 in the world, and that ranking is based on a point system in an athlete’s top five meets.
“It’s overly complicated, to be honest,” Shuey said with a laugh. “If I’m in the top 32, which I am right now, then I’ll go to the Olympics when the time comes for them to pick the field.”
It’s a goal Shuey’s had for himself since middle school.
“In seventh grade, my junior high coach, Chuck Charney, was the first one to let me try javelin… He let me do it in a practice, and he said, ‘Mike, I think you could go to the Olympics for this.’ For him to say that, and I was gullible enough, that was a lot of fun.”
Shuey also wanted to credit his high school coaches, Mike Cherry and Richard Schreiber, and his college coach, Lucas McKay, for his successes.
And now, with his sights on the Olympic Games and a relatively clear path in front of him, Shuey is potentially primed for even bigger accomplishments than ever before.