Shields leads the Cal men’s swimming team to Pac-12 title

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By winning yet another Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet accolade, senior standout Tom Shields added another milestone to his legacy while propelling the Bears to the top at the Pac-12s for the first time in 32 years.

After the four-day meet spanning from March 3-6, the Cal men’s swimming team dethroned rival Stanford as Pac-12 Champions with a 825-800 score.

At King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Wash., the Bears were able to end Stanford’s streak by drawing tremendous contributions from senior Tom Shields and the relay teams. Over the stretch of the four-day meet, Cal was able to maintain its lead throughout the whole meet even after a comeback attempt by Stanford.

Cal relied on the versatile Shields to continue his dominance. As a multi-event threat, Shields demonstrated durability by participating in a variety of races and relays. He won the 100 fly, 100 back and 200 fly races and a pair of relay races.

With five first-place finishes and a second-place finish during the championship, Shields was again named the 2013 Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet. Shields finished his career with a total of 16 Pac-12 titles.

Younger Cal players also contributed to the title pursuit. Setting the Pac-12 meet record in 400 IM with a time of 3:41.82, freshman Josh Prenot continued his successful season and led the freshman group.

With the relays usually being the last event of each day. Cal’s relay teams pulled out important victories to give Cal more momentum for the next day. The relay team, consisting of Shields, junior Tony Cox, senior Trevor Hoyt and junior Shayne Fleming, finished with a 200 medley title — Cal’s sixth in row — and a runner-up finish in 800 free relay.

Pebley, Hoyt, Shields and sophomore Seth Stubblefield also combined to capture the 400 medley relay.

“The key to our success tonight was our performance in the morning prelims that put us in position to score points,” coach David Durden said. “We capped it off with a nice race in the 400 medley relay.”

Through most of the meet, Stanford was also within reach of taking Cal’s first-place throne. The Cardinal were led by sophomore Dave Nolan, who set a new Pac-12 record in the 200 back timing in 1:40.39.

On the last day of the meet, Stanford seniors Aaron Wayne and Andrew Saeta took second and fifth respectively in the 100 free to narrow Cal’s lead, 673-662.

But the Cardinal’s dream for its 32nd consecutive title fell short. Cal soon broke away from the Pac-12 pack by placing in three of the top six spots of the 200 breast on the last day.

Although Nolan won the race for Stanford, the 200 breast race solidified Cal’s first Pac-12 title since 1981.

“I am proud of the way our men competed over the last three and a half days,” Durden said. “It is amazing to think about a 31-year streak such as Stanford’s and all of the great teams that they have held off over the years.”

Hunter He covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected]