Junior two-time Olympic Trials competitor and former Golden Bear, Samantha Shellem, has proven time and time again that she is one of the most fierce and ambitious swimmers in California.
From shattering the school’s 500-yard freestyle record at 4:48.69, to hitting NCAA “B” qualifying standards in the 200-free at Missouri, to being dubbed MPSF Female Athlete of the Week two times, Shellem has displayed that she can consistently perform at a high level.
Shellem took several minutes out of her day after a grueling practice at Schaal Aquatics Center to speak with Aggie Sports Writer Veena Bansal about her experiences and goals heading into the future.
How did you get into swimming?
I just really liked water and stuck with it.
How was your experience with the Olympic Trials?
This was actually my second Olympic trials — I had one in 2008. I had an idea of what the meet was going to be like — well at least I thought I did — until I got there and everything felt brand new. It’s just such a high level of swimming and I feel like sometimes you can cut the tension with a knife.
There are people at their highest highs, lowest lows, there’s everything in between. It’s such a fun, [emotional] and big meet. It was cool getting to see my friends. I didn’t compete as well as I had liked, but it gave me some baselines to work on.
Do you think anything changed in particular from your first trials to the second?
Just that I got older! That I worked a little harder. It really just felt brand new all over again.
In daily practices, what do you think is the most challenging part?
Probably the morning workouts, just because you have to wake up at 5 in the morning. It’s pretty cold!
Is there anything in particular you tell yourself when things aren’t going your way?
I just tell myself it’s a new race. I’ve done all the preparation I could do. I’ve done it however many times. I just try to refocus and reframe it in a positive manner.
What is your favorite stroke and why?
I like freestyle because it’s not the other strokes.
When you compete do you have a specific workout routine?
I have to have coffee before I race. I drink coffee before prelims and finals and dual meets.
What has been your most memorable moment this season so far?
Probably in Missouri. I had to swim the 200 free three times in one day. I just remember getting to the third one and being like, “OK, it’s a relay, I’ve got to do it for my team.” It was a really exciting race for me.
Apart from swimming, is there anything in particular you enjoy doing?
I really like playing ultimate frisbee but I don’t get a chance to do it very afternoon. And the beach! Just relaxing activities, I suppose.
What do you think is your biggest weakness and strength?
I think my greatest strength would be the ability to refocus and think, “What happens, what happens. Good or bad, I have to focus on this now.” I feel my greatest weakness is that something I get really discouraged in long sets during practice.
Do you have any personal goals related to swimming?
I would like to make the NCAA meet.
Is there anything in particular you would like to get out of this season?
Just really looking forward to Conference. It’s starting to get really close and everyone’s getting excited. I can just feel the energy picking up.
What is it like being around your teammates?
It’s definitely a great environment here. I always look forward to coming to practice. If I’m having a bad day, I know someone here will pick me up and help me through it and vice versa. If a set’s really hard, just a lot of encouragement — no negative feedback.
Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to next season?
We’ll just have to see! I haven’t thought that far ahead yet!
VEENA BANSAL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.