Shelby Hummel, 17, who captured four medals in track and field events in this year’s 19th Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv, almost wasn’t going to compete at all. Literally at the 11th hour, a day before she and her family were leaving on a Hawaiian vacation, she learned there was a place for her on the United States team after all.
“She competed in the U.S. games a year a go in Memphis, winning 11 medals, 9 gold,” explained Shelby’s father, Dennis Hummel. “When won so many medals in Memphis, it was suggested she submit an application for this year’s games in Israel. But in February we got notice that they would not be able to use her.”
So the Hummels went ahead and made summer vacation plans for a trip to Maui in June. “The day before we left for vacation, on June 7, we got a letter from the president of the U.S. Maccabiah Games delegation that there was a place for Shelby.
“She was a very late add,” Dennis Hummel continued. “But we think she may have garnered more medals than anyone else on that junior team.”
Shelby was on the USA Track and Field Team (17 and under age group division) and won gold medals in the 800-meter, 1,500-meter and 3,000-meter races and a bronze medal in the 4X400 meter relay.
“She actually smashed her personal best time in the 1,500, shaving off 12 seconds,” said Dennis Hummel.
Shelby will be a senior at Marquette High School where she runs cross-country and track and field. She represented her school at the Missouri High School State Championships this year in both sports. She has also raced on a national level having participated in both the AAU and USATF Junior Olympics in the past four years. She is a member of United Hebrew Congregation.
Shelby, who has a twin sister named Morgan, says the experience “was something I could only imagine in my dreams.” She explained that she spent the first of three weeks in Israel touring the country with other athletes, and was especially enamored with her visit to the Western Wall.
“We got to learn about our history and our past and get more connected with Judaism. That in itself was special and eye-opening for me,” said Shelby. “As the games started, I felt a real sense of pride for my country wearing my U.S. jersey and so proud to be able to compete.
“I would be ecstatic is I got asked to do it again,” she added, explaining that she couldn’t compete in four years in Israel as a junior athlete but could do so in the next age category.
Shelby also said she was “absolutely shocked at her results, and winning three gold medals and a bronze” because she wasn’t really training for track and field. “My focus this summer was mainly about training cross country for this fall, and doing well for my school team.”
After returning from Israel late last week, Shelby and her family went out to a special dinner to celebrate her accomplishments as well as her brother’s 19th birthday. What she was looking less forward to was getting her wisdom teeth pulled on Wednesday.
At this year’s games, which take place in Israel every four years, 9,500 athletes represented a total of 77 countries. A spokesperson for the games said the complete results for the St. Louis athletes would be available in the next day or two, so be sure to check the Jewish Light this week as well as www.stljewishlight.com for updates.