JANESVILLE

Tina Shelton walked into Parker High School four years ago wanting nothing more than to play sports.

She never considered herself as one of the top talents on her teams, but she was more than willing to work hard and bring her competitive attitude with her every day.

Two months into her senior year, Shelton still wants nothing more than to be on the court or the track. Major leg injuries have forced her to sit out nearly one full sports season each of the last two years.

Shelton hopes by the time graduation rolls around, she’s closed out her career with a healthy senior year to go along with the self-confidence that has come with earning more athletic letters than she can count on her two hands.

A sports ‘tagalong’

Shelton remembers being at the 2008 WIAA state track and field meet in La Crosse.

Her brother, Ryan, was competing there for Parker during his sophomore season.

“That environment was just unbelievable,” Tina said. “So since I was probably like 7 years old, something like that, I always wanted to strive for that to have the feeling my brother had.”

Most of her early sports memories center around watching Ryan or her older sister, Samantha.

Ron and Carrie Shelton encouraged their kids to try as many sports as possible growing up but also instilled in them the mindset that they would need to work hard at whichever activities they chose, Tina said.

“I was a tagalong to my sister’s and brother’s sporting events, but I did pay attention and learned a lot of different things, and I just saw how happy they got when they were playing,” she said. “Whether it was playing HORSE in the driveway, I always want to win, no matter what. Competitiveness with my brother and sister has been huge.

“(My dad) pushes me to be competitive and hard-working, and my parents have definitely given me that work ethic.”

Freshman-year breakthroughs

Shelton didn’t get into volleyball until eighth grade, so when she made it to Parker, she was simply hoping to make a team.

She was one of two freshman to make the JV roster.

“I didn’t think I’d ever go somewhere with it,” she said. “But then I wanted to make the varsity team after that year.”

Shelton’s first eye-opening moment that she would have a chance to make an impact at Parker was when she made the varsity girls basketball team as a freshman.

She played in 17 games that season, averaging about four points per game.

“I started playing basketball when I was 5, but I never really saw myself, confidence-wise, as one of the better players on the team. I just wanted to help make the offense flow,” Shelton said. “Making the varsity basketball team opened my eyes to the opportunities.”

Then came track and field season. That was another sport Shelton had no real great experience in working at, but it did not take long to realize sprints were a natural fit.

Shelton finished fifth and 100- and 200-meter dashes at sectionals, mere fractions of a second from reaching state.

Riding ups and downs

The past two years have been filled with highs and lows for Shelton.

As a sophomore, she made the varsity volleyball team and accepted a role as a middle hitter despite being undersized at that position.

And in basketball, Shelton was the Vikings’ third- leading scorer at eight points per game.

But her spring track season ended as quickly as it began. After just one race, she took a trip to the doctor, where she learned she had a torn quad in her right leg.

“After having to sit out and watch other people do it, it made me want to do it even more,” said Shelton, whose favorite sport quickly became track and field.

She recovered in time to play volleyball again as a junior, but injury struck again by basketball season. Shelton played just three games last winter after tearing an adductor muscle in the hip area of the same right leg.

By spring, she eased her way onto the track and was back in prime form in time for the postseason. Shelton advanced to state in the 100, the 200 and as part of Parker’s 4x200 relay team.

“I finished 17th in the 100, so I wasn’t in the top 10 or anything, but just to be there after those two injuries felt amazing,” said Shelton, who was 20th in the 200. “It had been a dream since I started my career at Parker.”

A senior sendoff?

Shelton’s senior year is off to a solid start.

She has been a main contributor and six-rotation player for a Parker volleyball team vying for a top-three finish in the Big Eight Conference.

“Last year she showed flashes in the back row, and this year we haven’t been able to take her off the court,” Parker coach Andy Kimball said. “She just loves to compete, whether she’s playing defense or hitting in the front row. She works hard to elevate her play, and I think it makes everyone else do that, as well.”

Shelton said she also attempts to help younger Parker athletes coming up behind her with their confidence and athletic abilities.

“Playing sports has shaped me into the person I am today,” she said. “I gained my self-confidence from sports, and my leadership role and overcoming injuries. It’s just really showed me what determination is and how to not take things for granted. Having to sit on the sidelines and watch your teammates play the sport you love is very hard.

“Some of the younger players last year, I tried to help them and put them in different places and show them the different things I learned when I was a freshman. It’s kind of exciting to be able to help the younger girls, and show them that this is not just for high school, it’s for the rest of your life.”

Sometimes Shelton is forced to rein in her competitive nature—particularly in offseason and off-the-court workouts.

“I don’t want to do that at all, but sometimes I have to think and realize that it’s worth it to be able to play later,” she said.

Shelton is expected to rejoin the lineup for a Parker basketball team looking to bounce back this winter before one final track season.

“It’s sad to say, but it’s kind of a dream,” Shelton said when asked what it would mean to get through her senior year healthy. “I just want to get through it without any road bumps. I want smooth riding and I want it to be fun.”

The ultimate fun could come at the very end. The state track and field meet begins June 5, the same day as Parker’s graduation.

Shelton could compete at state early in the day and return to Janesville in time for her graduation.

“Cross my fingers if I make it that far,” she said. “I want to walk across that stage, but I also want to walk across that finish line.”

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