Spring sports awards: Best male athlete

Junior Tom Shields was named 2012 NCAA Swimmer of the Meet after winning two individual NCAA titles and taking part in a first-place relay race.
Andrew Kuo/File
Junior Tom Shields was named 2012 NCAA Swimmer of the Meet after winning two individual NCAA titles and taking part in a first-place relay race.

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Best Male Athlete: Tom Shields

Even on the best swim team in the country, Tom Shields has found a way to stand out.

The junior All-American capped off another strong season by leading the Cal men’s swim team to its second consecutive national championship. Though 18 Cal swimmers qualified for NCAAs, Shields was the best of the bunch, winning national titles in the 100 fly and 100 back. The junior was also a part of Cal’s 400 medley relay win and finished a close second in four other events.

Shields has filled the role Nathan Adrian had last year: best swimmer on the best team in the country. The junior has been an anchor and a mentor for a young Cal team, bridging the gap between last year’s senior-laden squad and this year’s young team. Shields was the only Cal non-senior to win individual titles at last year’s meet. This year, Shields was the oldest Bear to win an individual title.

But with Shields, it’s not about the individual glory — it’s about the team.

“I really wanted to win a team title,” Shields said. “And I really wanted to be part of a program that could put me, that could put us as a team, in that situation.”

Shields won plenty of individual accolades this year — Pac-12 swimmer of the year, NCAA Championship Swimmer of the Meet. But it’s his second team championship that matters the most.

— Chris Yoder

Honorable Mention: Jorge Gutierrez

Guard Jorge Gutierrez was the first player in league history to be named Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. (Michael Gethers/File)

This is a nod to hustle, heart and hard-earned glory.

Over the past four years, head coach Mike Montgomery has built the Cal men’s basketball team largely by turning little-known recruits into overachievers. Jorge Gutierrez was his foundational block, the epitome of a “Monty” player.

An offensive liability when he arrived on campus, Gutierrez became a do-it-all force by his senior year. His jump shot never got much prettier, but it was hard to find a better perimeter defender in the country.

In March, he was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year — the first in conference history to nab both awards. There were more talented players in the league, but Gutierrez’s absence would’ve dropped second-place Cal four or five spots.

— Jack Wang

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