Since then, all Shields did was score 57 points for the Bears, set an NCAA record and was named the "Swimmer of the Meet" of the championship.
Shields has already fielded an illustrious career at Cal, including an individual NCAA title in the 100 fly last year as a freshman. He was also named the Pac-10 swimmer of the month in January. In just two-and-a-half weeks, the sophomore will look to continue racking in the accolades at the NCAA Championships in Minnesota.
Certainly one of the big showdowns will be with Stanford senior Austin Staab, who won the NCAA title in the 100 fly in 2009 before missing last season due to personal reasons. In their two meetings this year, Staab has topped Shields in the event. The last meeting of 2011 just might field a different result.
The Cal men's swimming team does not fully rest or shave for the Pac-10 Championships. Instead, they wait for NCAAs to ensure that they're swimming their best. Stanford, meanwhile, shaved and fully rested for Pac-10s to uphold their now 30-year streak of winning the conference crown.
So yes, that means that Shields and the Bears finished second last weekend without being fully rested or shaved for the weekend, meaning that they'll be peaking at just the right time.
We caught up with Shields yesterday afternoon to talk about his weekend performance and what he anticipates from himself and his teammates at NCAAs next week. Here's what he had to say.
This photo, taken by Bear Blog photographer James Besser, captures Shields underwater during practice.
David Seawright: You were named Pac-10 "Swimmer of the Meet" - did you think that might happen heading into the weekend?
Tom Shields: Honestly? Yeah. It usually goes to whoever scores the most points, and I knew I would be contending for all the events I'm in. And I know that Nathan [Adrian], who's a very deserving athlete as well - I knew I would beat him in the 100 fly and that would help my cause. I knew it would come down to how Staab did in the 100 free and he came in third so I was like, sweet, I got it.
DS: So 57 points on the weekend, you'll be shaved and rested for NCAAs in two weeks - do you think you'll be able to score a perfect 60?
TS: I mean, I'd love to, but we're adding a lot of swimmers - some guys who have better times than me in some of the races. There are some really good athletes, and this is the big show, so that's the ultimate goal for everyone there - to win every race they're in. So obviously I'm hopeful, I'd love to.
DS: How much of a difference does it really make to be shaved and rested?
TS: I think it's the difference in the 12 one-hundreths between myself and Staab. I think that with a lot more rest, personally, I can be faster. For other guys it makes a huge different - when they're rested it's like they're a different athlete. I know I'll be faster - I dropped almost a full second in the 100 fly at NCAAs last year, so even though that's mathematically impossible this year I'm hoping to drop time in all of my events.
DS: So what will the next two weeks look like for you as you rest and taper?
TS: I don't know - listen to the coaches I guess. I'll stay off my feet as much as possible and tone down the social life. Just coming in and focusing every day.
DS: Your team has now fallen to Stanford two times in a row. Your third shot is on the biggest stage there is. Aside from the personal desire to win, what does it mean to have a third shot at Stanford?
TS: I think that winning the last four events last weekend really gave us a confidence boost. We know that we're not shaved and rested but we performed really well. I think we're in a good spot right now - we got our swag back and are swimming well. I think we can win and it's a matter of if we really decide to. This is the one that counts, so we're disappointed that we lost at Pac-10s but this is the one we've been working toward.
DS: Realistically, what do you think you can achieve personally and as a team at NCAAs?
TS: As a team, I think we can win. We'll have to do it without divers, but it's a testament to the strength of our swimming program. And personally, the American record in the 200 fly is right there. I'm right there behind Phelps and I think I can get it. Of course I want to win as many events as I can, win as many relays as I'm involved with since I know that we have a great shot at those. I just love winning - I want to go after as many titles as we possibly can individually and as a team.