MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby McEwen grew up on a small street in Abbeville, Mississippi, right outside of Oxford. He spent his time playing outside in his back yard. “Probably around my second grade year, I figured out, wow, I can jump,” he remembered.
According to his mom, Sharon McEwen, “We bought him a trampoline. Shelby got out there one day jumping, jumping, jumping, he busts his head wide open. We took him to the hospital, he came back, got back out there and burst it again. I knew then, at that time, he could jump.”
Shelby’s first love was basketball. He was dunking in games by the time he was in eighth grade. In high school he was on Oxford’s track and field team, but put more time into basketball. He played AAU which took him around the country. Including Vegas, where he proved to the world, he had hops. Shelby won the 2014 Jordan Brand dunk contest.
“When I took off from the free throw line, I told myself I was just going to take off not knowing I’d take off behind the line,” he remembered. “That was a life changer right there. That changed my life that day.”
Shelby went the JUCO route and played basketball at Northwest Mississippi. He still had track & field in the back of his mind. He’d compete unattached at different college meets and eventually realized he had a future in high jump.
“That’s when the offers started pouring in. I always told myself, wherever I went I would stay in the SEC coming out of JUCO,” Shelby said. “I knew then It was time for me to take the track and field route.”
His mom, Sharon, told him, “I said you’re great in basketball, but I said, son, to get that division one scholarship, get that education, go ahead and take the track and field, because you’re already way up here in track.”
Shelby McEwen committed to Alabama where he became a two-time SEC Champion and National Champion in high jump. After he graduated, he started training for the Olympics at the University of Louisville. But when Covid-19 hit, he went back home to Mississippi.
“It was a huge transition. I had to face a little adversity. I kind of struggled indoor, but I had to quit making excuses and just go out and get it done, I knew who was on my side the whole time.”
Shelby’s mom and dad were the ones to help keep him on the path to Tokyo. Every Sunday, Shelby’s coach in Louisville would send him workouts for the week. Sharon McEwen would go out to the track with Shelby every day and helped train her son.
“Being mom, I totally panicked for about a month or two,” she said. “Then I said, OK, I can do this. I’d rather do this than him go out and be around a bunch of people.
Together they saw the work pay off. In May, Shelby set a personal record. He cleared 2.33 meters. That mark made him the the third ranked high jumper in the world this year, as he prepared for his first Olympic Trials.
“I have the Olympic standard going in, that’s a stress off my back. Looking forward to going out shocking the world, competing hard, making the top three and making the Olympic team.”
Shelby McEwen will compete in the U.S. Trials qualifying rounds of the men’s high jump, Friday at 3 PM.
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