Will Shanel took swimming lessons from Casey Dauw growing up.
Three weeks ago, Shanel broke Dauw’s Norris Center pool record in the 200-yard individual medley.
Joe Cabel gave Shanel swimming lessons during those formative years, too.
On Wednesday, Cabel beamed about accompanying the high school senior he still mentors to the Illinois Swimming Coaches Association all-state banquet in Glen Ellyn.
Shanel capped his St. Charles East career with a sixth-place swim in the 200-yard individual medley and a fourth-place finish in the 500 freestyle at the IHSA state meet in Evanston earlier this month. The Kane County Chronicle Boys Swimmer of the Year didn’t completely realize it then, but much had come full-circle.
“Everybody always says high school goes so fast and enjoy it while you’re there,” Shanel said. “I never really agreed with that as it was going on; the days seemed to go forever. But as you think about it more, the four years do seem like they just zip by. ... I’m definitely, definitely satisfied.”
As his Saints swan song reached its closing notes this season, Shanel took to self-deprecatingly calling himself the “caboose” of a well-established swimming family. He’s set to join the proverbial next car – older sister Ashley – and compete at NCAA Division II Truman (Mo.) State next fall.
The duo that got the Shanels on track with the sport, parents Bill and Susan, met as collegiate swimmers at Indiana. Will Shanel’s mother attended the same Bloomington, Ind., high school as Cabel’s wife, Jean, and the two reconnected at Salerno’s on the Fox years later.
The story goes that Cabel was newly on the job as coach of then-St. Charles High in the early 1990s.
Enjoying a night out with Susan late in her pregnancy, the Shanels noticed the Cabels in the restaurant, remarked about how they were talking with the Saints’ coach and Will was born a few days later.
Or something like that.
“There was a connection before we got here, and we didn’t even know it,” Cabel said.
“I watched him learn to swim and become an All-American.”
Shanel met All-American qualifying standards for both events, earning personal-best times in the 200 IM (1:52.77) and 500 free (4:34.79) at the state preliminaries in Evanston.
Battling a slight illness during finals the next afternoon, he was a tad off the pace in both races – 1:53.08 and 4:36.66, respectively – but emerged from the pool with no regrets and little stamina. That’s always the aim.
“When you get to the meet,” Shanel said, “my mentality of it all is to give it whatever you’ve got, and as long as you get out of that pool doing that then you can’t be unhappy with whatever you did, whether you broke the world record or you got disqualified.”
Shanel trimmed nearly 16 seconds from his 500 free prelim time as a freshman in 2011 and enjoyed a significantly better state meet than last season, when he took eighth in the 200 IM and was part of an 11th-place swim in the 200 freestyle relay.
“Dialed in, definitely, at sectionals and state,” Cabel said.
Last-minute lineup shuffling took Shanel out of the state series rotation in the 500 free last season.
Shanel’s ultimate goal – eclipsing his dad’s top 500 free time of 4:31.13 at St. Charles in the early 1980s – was left unfulfilled, although Shanel said that doesn’t particularly gall him. It’s hard for Shanel to figure he missed out on anything given all the friendships and memories he gained.
One of those bonds dates back to those first swimming lessons in Cabel’s backyard. Fellow Saints senior Nick Wellman was there, too, and relished being on hand this season as East earned its first sectional title since 2002.
Wellman was even geeked when Shanel tabbed him for one of the unsung jobs of swimming – holding and maneuvering the flip cards during the 500 free.
“Will and I are practically brothers,” Wellman said. “We’ve been together every step of the way.”
Even with the “caboose” remark on the table, Shanel ultimately knows he’ll always be part of a deeply-connected fraternity of St. Charles swimmers at both the high school and club levels.
Next week, he’ll join a co-ed contingent of St. Charles Swim Team athletes traveling to the National Club Swimming Association Championships in Orlando, Fla. Cabel’s brother, Jon, is SCST’s co-head coach, augmenting the connection between the Cabels and Shanels.
Naturally, that history provided conversation fodder as the group sat together at Wednesday’s banquet, Will “impeccably” dressed in Saints orange and black, as Joe Cabel saw it.
“My perspective going in as a freshman, it’s, ‘OK I’ve known coach Joe all the way along,’ ” Shanel said. “But I never realized until now just how far things go back, and how much families – not just our families, but St. Charles families in general – have that bond.
“It’s fun to see all that stuff come out.”