Aaron Shackell

View Current photo via Jack Spitser

The son of British 1996 and 2000 Olympian Nick and Auburn All-American Ali, Aaron Shackell grew up in a swimming family. He came into his own after his family moved to Carmel Indiana during the COVID-19 Pandemic. He maintained a steep improvement trajectory, winning Junior National and Jr. Pan Pac titles while setting records. He committed to Cal but swam just one semester before redshirting and training in Carmel. He later transferred to UT. Swimming in front of a home crowd at the Olympic Team Trials in Indianapolis, Shackell led wire-to-wire in the 400 free to become the first American to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games in pool swimming. 

Junior/High School Swimming

Shackell had a meteoric rise as COVID-19 lockdowns lifted in 2021 and his family moved to Carmel, Indiana. He is first big swim came at 2021 Indy Sectionals where he crushed a 2:03.19 200 fly for 3rd. He was also 56.33 in his 100 fly and 1:55.50 in his 200 free at the same meet. Shackell lowered that 200 fly mark to 2:02.92 a few months later at a North Texas meet. Shackell then returned home and crushed a 2:01.00 a week later at a Carmel time trial to qualify for the Wave I Olympic Trials. 

At Wave I Olympic Team Trials, Shackell added significantly to a 2:04.67 in the 200 fly for 20th. 

2021 Winter Juniors saw Shackell convert his LC gains to SCY. There he finished 6th in the 200 fly after popping a 1:45.87 PB in prelims. He was also 4:26.10 in the 500 free prelims before adding and placing 8th and 1:38.24 in the 200 free prelims before adding and placing 14th. 

Shackell was key in the Carmel High School Boys’ quest for an 8th-straight Indiana Championship. The 2022 state meet started off as well as possible with the team of Sean Sullivan (21.82), Ryan Malicki (24.18), Shackell (20.86), and Christopher Holmes (20.02) crushing the overall National High School Record in the 200 medley relay with a 1:26.88. Shackell rolled right into the 200 free where he took 2nd with a PB of 1:36.19 bing Mitchell Schott (1:35.48). Shackell then triumphed in the 100 fly, winning in a 47.69, just off the 47.48 PB he set in prelims. Finally, Shackell led off the victorious 400 free relay with a 45.02. Carmel won the meet by well over 100 points. 

Shackell continued to prove he was a superb long-course swimmer. Returning to IUPUI for sectionals, Shackell blasted PBs in the 50/100/200/400 free and 100/200 fly. His best swim was the 2:00.31 200 fly but his 3:58.38 400 free and 54.26 100 fly were also impressive. Shackell was 23.72/51.59/1:53.70 in the other free events.

Three weeks ahead of Junior Pan Pacs, Shackell made more massive improvements at Summer Juniors. Day 1 saw Shackell and his little sister Alex set PBs in the 200 fly prelims to claim top seeds in their respective genders. The older Shackell hit a 1:57.79 to qualify first by nearly a full second, with Thomas Heilman trailing at 1:58.78. He found a little more in finals, winning in a 1:57.42, completing the Shackell 200 fly sweep as Alex had won only a few heats prior. Still 17, Shackell’s time ranked #9 in the 17-18 NAG rankings. 

Shackell was also on point in the freestyle races, placing 4th with a 3:55.38 in the 400 free, 5th with a 1:50.84 in the 200 free, and 20th in the 100 free with a 50.84. 

Shackell backed up his breakout summer at 2022 Winter Juniors. Night 1 saw him reset his 200 free PB with a 1:35.02 leading off in a relay. He dropped just under 2 seconds off his 500 free in prelims with a 4:20.35. Shackell was way faster in the final, negatively splitting things to win in a tight race in 4:16.49. 

Day 3 was another PB as Shackell placed 10th with a 47.04 100 fly. Day 4 was more successful, with Shackell setting PBs in the 100 free and 200 fly in prelims with a 43.63 and a 1:45.02 respectively. In the 100 free final, Shackell was a little off with a 43.97 for 8th but he was on fire in the 200 fly, dropping a 1:44.24 for 3rd.  

Shackell lowered his 200 free PB again with a 1:34.88 in January, setting himself up well for his final Indiana HS State Championship. There, Shackell wasted no time establishing himself. In the 200 Medley relay prelims, he split a 20.88 50 fly split. Mere minutes later downed Carson Foster’s US high school record of 1:32.99 in the 200 freestyle with a 1:32.85. That was a 2-second drop. In addition to setting a new high school record, he set a new Indiana high school record, which Drew Kibler set back in 2017 with a 1:33.30. He took it a little easier, but not much, in the 500 free prelims, taking the top seed with a 4:19.19. Shackell was saved for the final in the 400 free relay.

In the finals, Shackell was better with a 20.46 50 fly split. He was a little slower in the 200 free, winning in a 1:33.68, his first title in the 200 free. Shackell secured his first and only event sweep with a 4:15.35 to take gold in the 500 free, a PB. Shackell wrapped things up with a big 42.96 100 free relay split as Carmel won another state title. 

A month later, in the LCM pool, Shackell placed second behind Kibler in the 200 free with a 1:47.70 at Indy Sectionals. Shackell dropped more than three seconds off his previous best. He took 2nd to Kibler again in the 400 free with a 3:52.42 PB. 

Shackell prepped for the European U23 Championships at Summer Juniors and crushed some huge swims. Shackell swam his 3rd-fastest 200 fly ever on night 1, resetting Andrew Seliskar’s meet record with a 1:56.07. He crushed a PB in the 100 free the next night with a 49.52. In the same session, he duked it out with Maximus Williamson leading off in the 800 free relay. Williamson got the better of him 1:47.29 to 1:47.55. 

Shackell destroyed the meet record and blew away the rest of the field, notching a PB by 2.1 seconds and winning the Junior National title in the 400 free with 3:47.00.  Shackell held mainly 28-mids, building his lead with each 50. He finished with the fastest time ever swum at this meet by an astounding 3.7 seconds. That made him #3 in the 17-18 NAG rankings. 

In the 200 free, the “A” final of the 200 free Shackell against Jersey Wahoos’ Henry McFadden, just home from representing Team USA at World Championships. Shackell was first to the 50 wall, leading with 25.28. Jason Zhao from Mason Manta Rays was in second place with 25.46, just ahead of McFadden (25.55). The trio pulled ahead of the field at the 100. Shackell still led but McFadden had moved into second. McFadden took over the lead at the 150, flipping at 1:20.32, three-tenths ahead of Shackell. But Shackell still had another gear; he came home in 26.82, outsplitting McFadden by .42, to get the win by a tenth, 1:47.46 to 1:47.56. 

College Swimming

In February 2022, Shackell announced his verbal commitment to the University of California, Berkeley, or simply Cal

2023-24 (Cal)

Shackell was very under the radar through the fall, only really rearing his head at the Minnesota Invite. There, he swam decently, posting a 1:36.76 200 free with a 1:34.17 800 free relay split. He was also 4:22.77 in the 500 and 1:43.40 in the 200 fly. That 200 fly was a PB. 

In December Cal Head Coach Dave Durden confirmed to SwimSwam that Shackell will be returning to his home club team, Carmel Swim Club to take an Olympic Redshirt. Durden also said that Shackell would return to campus in the fall.

“We have had several conversations over the past year with Aaron and his parents about what this Olympic year would look like as Aaron transitioned into his freshman year in college. Training with Chris (Plumb) and Carmel was one of those options. As we are seven months away from Olympic trials and to lessen some of collegiate challenges as a freshman, we decided being at home and at Carmel would be the most familiar environment for him and his family. We continue to support him and look forward to having him back on campus in the fall.”

In contradiction to Durden’s comments, Shackell entered the transfer portal when it opened and announced he was transferring to Texas. He joined newly-appointed Texas Head Coach Bob Bowman and many of his elite college and pro swimmers. 

National/International Swimming

2022 International Team Trials (Greensboro, North Carolina)

In the 200 fly, Shackell had one of the largest time drops by percentage of the entire meet, dropping a little under a second in prelims with a 1:59.38 to qualify back 11th before shaving a further 1.33 seconds with a massive 1:58.05 to win the “B” final. Shackell also took 23rd in the 100 fly with a 54.86 and 42nd in the 200 free with a 1:52.92. Shackell’s 200 fly qualified him for Jr Pan Pacs alongside his sister.

2022 Junior Pan Pacific Championships (Honolulu, Hawaii)

Jr Pan Pacs was Shackell’s coming out party. His best event, the 200 fly, was on day 1, allowing him to go at it fully rested. In prelims, Shackell was pedaled to the medal, taking the top seed by nearly 1.5 seconds with a 1:56.15 PB. Shackell ripped another lifetime best en route to winning gold with a 1:55.81. That took down Andrew Seliskar’s meet record of 1:55.92 from 2014. It also made him #3 all-time in the 17-18 NAG behind Luca Urlando (1:53.84) and Michael Phelps (1:54.86). That also earned him a spot on the US National Team. 

Day 3 saw Shackell break 54 seconds in the 100 fly with a 53.96 for 3rd in prelims. He nearly netted another medal that night, dropping to a 53.54 for 4th. 

2023 US International Team Trials (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Swimming in what was essentially a home pool, Shackell had one heck of a meet. The first day of the trials, Shackell just missed the 200 fly “A” final, placing 9th in prelims with a 1:56.78. He was a whole lot faster with a 1:55.92 in the “B” final, outtouching Dare Rose by just .01 and Nicolas Albiero by .04 seconds second to place 9th.

Shackell was just off his 200 free PB in prelims, clocking a 1:47.80 for 15th. In the “B” final he clocked a PB of 1:47.29 for 13th. Shackell’s best swim came in the 400 free. He crushed a 3-second PB in prelims with a 3:49.19 for 5th in prelims. That moved him to #10 in the 17-18 NAG rankings. He was just off that mark in the final with a 3:49.43 in the final for 6th. 

Shackell was announced as one of 7 men on the US roster for the inaugural LEN European U23 Championships after Team Trials.

2023 LEN European U23 Championships (Dublin, Ireland)

Shackell had some good swims but was mostly off his best form. In the 200 fly, he placed 5th with a 1:56.83, 15th in the 100 fly with a 53.53, and 22nd in the 100 free with a 50.25. His sole PB came in the 200 free where he was 2nd in prelims courtesy of his 1:47.07. Shackell fell one spot in the final for 3rd with a 1:47.35. 

2024 Sectionals (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Shackell began to quietly make his case as an Olympic contender here. His best swim was his massive 1:46.35 200 free. That marked his first sub-1:47 200 free. He also swam a 49.46 100 free PB. Shackell posted season bests in the 400 free (3:48.92) and 200 fly (1:57.04). 

2024 US Olympic Team Trials (Indianapolis, Indiana)

The hometown hero, Shackell posted a season-best 3:47.96 to qualify back 4th in the 400 free. With the crowd pushing him along, Shackell shot out to an early lead over the first 200 meters, with splits of 25.52/28.21/28.61/29.02. He maintained his lead over the next 150 meters with splits of 28.62/28.86/28.66, all near or the fastest in the field. Kieran Smith made a major charge down the stretch but Shackell held him off with a 27.96 split to win and qualify for his first Olympics with a 3:45.46. Shackell was also the first American to qualify in a pool swimming event. 

“[During the] last 50, everything in my body just turned off and I couldn’t really hear anything,” Shackell said. “With the training that I do…if I have the lead with 50 meters left, I’m not going to lose.”

“A lot people get nervous when they look at 20,000 people or a big stadium — for me, it makes me swim faster,” Shackell said. “I’ve always dreamed of performing in front of a basketball or a football stadium, at least when I was a kid. And in swimming, you don’t always have the opportunity. So getting an opportunity to put on a show in front of 20,000 fans, it’s everything to me.”

The next morning, Shackell moved through the 200 free prelims with a 1:47.05 to tie for 10th with Chris Guiliano. He seemed to be carrying a tying curse as in the semifinals, Shackell tied again, this time with Daniel Diehl in 1:47.00. What made the tie a huge deal was that it was for 8th, meaning a swim-off was required to determine who would make the final and who would see their 200 free Olympic bid come to an end. The swim-off was more exciting than could be asked for. Diehl switched up his tactics a little, pushing hard on his front half. Shackell, after a seemingly disastrous 28.04 3rd 50, sat .88 seconds back at the 150. Down the stretch, Diehl paid for his early speed as Shackell surged past him in the final meters with a 26.91. That split was 1.08 seconds faster than Diehl. Both of them had impressive swims, considering it was their third 200 free of the day. Shackell was 1:46.95 and Diehl was 1:47.16. 

–This biography was originally developed by Lucas Caswell

Best Times

Course Event Time Date Meet
scy 200 Free 1:32.85 02/23/23 2023 IHSAA Boys State Championships
Indianapolis, Indiana
scy 500 Free 4:15.35 02/24/23 2023 IHSAA Boys State Championships
Indianapolis, Indiana
scy 200 Fly 1:43.40 12/02/23 2023 Minnesota Invite
Minneapolis, Minnesota
lcm 200 Free 1:46.35 03/22/24 2024 Indy Sectionals
Indianapolis, Indiana
lcm 400 Free 3:45.46 06/15/24 2024 US Olympic Team Trials
Indianapolis, Indiana)
lcm 200 Fly 1:55.81 08/24/22 2022 Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships
Honolulu, Hawaii