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Student Qualifies for World Weightlifting Championship

Shafer to Compete in World Weightlifting Championship

By Carol Best 
Nov. 20, 2014

This Pioneer may be small in stature, but 5 ft., 2 in., Janelle Shafer is mighty, and she is a weightlifting champion. The junior Kinesiology major qualified for the World University Weightlifting Championships in Chiang Mai,Thailand this December 5-8, based on her performance in July at the 2014 USA Weightlifting National Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah.  She is ranked in the top seven U.S. female university athletes, according to her MNU Strength and Conditioning Coach, Whitney Rodden.

“That is out of all seven weight classes in which women compete in Olympic Weightlifting,” says Rodden.  “It’s pretty impressive!”

It is especially impressive when one learns that Shafer just started lifting toward the end of her first semester as a freshman at MNU.

“This isn’t normal,” Rodden says, when explaining Shafer’s accelerated rise to the top. “People [at the competitions] don’t know her. They aren’t expecting her to do so well, so it’s fun!”

Perhaps Shafer’s success is due to what Rodden calls her training work ethic and her relaxed attitude at competition.

“She rises to the occasion in competition,” Rodden says. “She’s there to give her best and she doesn’t let the pressure get to her.”

Shafer competes in the snatch, which is lifting the bar from the floor to over her head in one motion, and the clean and jerk, a floor to shoulder to overhead technique. Participants compete in their weight class and only two competitors per weight class were chosen for the USA team. Each competitor is allowed three attempts per lift.

“I can only do what my body allows,” Shafer says. “If a girl in my class out lifts me that’s it. I have to be on point, on my game, and be OK with that. I can’t dwell on it, I have to move on.”

Recently she surpassed several of her personal records and has gone from a 103 kilo clean and jerk to a 109.

“It’s not normal to have these kinds of gains,” Rodden says. “So who knows where her ceiling is?”  

Training five to six days a week in two or three sessions a day, Shafer does weightlifting and crossfit. She’s also a Pioneer cheerleader and practices with the team three mornings a week at 6 a.m. This time of year her weekends also include cheering in three different venues for football and basketball. At Olathe’s CrossFit-On-Track gym she also coaches others and works out with members to fit in her training time. How she finds time to maintain a 3.3 GPA in her quest for a degree in Kinesiology is a mystery, although she says she lifts between classes, naps when she can, and rarely has down time.

“I know it sounds cliché, but it is time management,” Shafer says. “When I’m not in class I’m at Cook Center [lifting] or at CrossFit.”

Shafer talks about lifting at 90 percent in training which refers to the maximum effort her body can give.  If she is going to 90 percent that week, it gets difficult. Some weeks are lighter than others as Coach Rodden cycles her training to help make gains.

“There are days at the end of the week when I really feel the effects,” she says. “That’s when I know I have to go train and I have to focus. If I want to win I have to go in when I don’t feel like it.”

Preparing for the World University Weightlifting Championships next month, Shafer says she hopes to place in the middle of the pack. She’s somewhat nervous since she will not have Rodden with her for the competition in Thailand. Rodden assures her that other USA Team coaches will support her efforts.

“She doesn’t realized how much I rely on her,” Shafer says of Rodden. “If there’s one thing I want everyone to know, it’s how much I owe Coach Rodden and others.”

Shafer’s cheerleading coach Brittney Kellar, CrossFit-On-Track owners Brian and Amanda Stites and of course Shafer’s parents are some of the other individuals she mentions. If those people were not supportive and flexible with her, Shafer says she would not be on her way to a world competition. But it is Rodden especially that Shafer praises.

“Her willingness and selflessness to help others,” Shafer pauses and shakes her head. “This weight room will be packed and she’s in here trying to help every person. She puts herself out, skips lunch just to help people. She invests her personal time. I text her at 5 a.m. and she’ll say that’s OK. She cares about my life.”

The relationship between coach and athlete is mutually admirable. Rodden has complete confidence in Shafer’s ability to compete internationally.

“My goal for her is to get on another international team,” Rodden says. “I think she will do well in Thailand. She should go into this with an open mind and give her best as she always does at meets.”

Watch the World University Weightlifting Championships online Dec. 5-8 at


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