By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, December 20, 2019
With many of the biggest names in swimming competing at FINA World Championships during this summer’s Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships, Shaine Casas made the most of his opportunity.
Competing in just his second Phillips 66 Nationals, the Texas A&M junior finished among the top 3 finalists in the 100 and 200 backstroke and 200 individual medley events as well as the 800 free relay to earn a spot on his first U.S. National Team.
And while he’s not deluding himself – he knows Olympians Ryan Murphy, Jacob Pebley and Matt Grevers, as well as others, weren’t at the meet but were competing at Worlds – he also knows that his times this summer (52.72 in the 100 and 1:55.79 in the 200) have placed his name in the conversation heading into Olympic Trials next summer.
For the time being, however, Casas is content to focus on his collegiate season and helping his Aggie teammates win.
“I went into the meet confident that I would swim fast, especially after doing so well my freshman year at A&M,” said Casas, who improved from top 15 finishes in both back events at 2018 Phillips 66 Nationals to win the 100 back and finish second in the 200 back and 200 IM at this year’s meet. “It turned out to go far beyond my expectations, and set me up for a strong sophomore season.”
A multi-sport athlete before choosing swimming during high school, Casas said confidence is something he really never lacked in any of the sports he played.
He got started swimming when he was 5 as his mother, Monica, wanted all four of her sons to know how to swim and be safe around water. He is the second-oldest of four brothers.
It wasn’t long after that he was recommended to swim in summer league at his local pool and two years later, he was swimming year-round at a local club in his hometown of McAllen, Texas.
“I remember when I first started swimming, my grandmother would give me chocolate as a reward for swimming well,” he said. “I loved that sugar rush, plus it gave me incentive to want to do more and better. Eventually, I didn’t expect or need chocolate to motivate me to swim.”
Also an avid and talented basketball player – he’s always been tall and stands at 6-foot-4 now – Casas ultimately chose to focus on swimming instead because he loved it more and saw a more promising future.
“I also played soccer when I was younger, but swimming was always the sport I enjoyed the most and was most successful at,” he said. “Basketball was a very close second.”
Casas said growing up he always dreamed of being an Olympian, but because he excelled in both swimming and basketball, he was never sure which one he would compete in at the world’s highest level.
It’s only been within the past year or so – largely based on his collegiate and national success – that he has started to believe he has a legitimate shot at making next year’s or a future Olympic Team.
Casas said his natural competitive nature drives him to want to succeed – and he’s definitely looking forward to seeing what he can do in the water leading up to Trials next summer and beyond.
“I didn’t swim at (2016) Trials, although I did watch it on TV, and that made me want to make sure I was there to contend in 2020,” said Casas, who earned NCAA Honorable Mention All-America honors in the 200m IM his first year at Texas A&M. “I know the United States is loaded and has a long history of dominance in the backstroke events, but I’m feeling confident that I can be right there and compete for a spot on next year’s Olympic Team.
“I tend to do well under pressure, so I’m expecting there to be a good bit of that next summer leading up to and at Trials. I like being in the underdog role – for now – but I also know that I can count on my self-confidence to push me. I know that having experience competing at NCAAs and Phillips 66 Nationals has prepared me for a meet the size and importance of Trials, and I’ve always considered myself to be a quick learner. I’m really looking forward to it.”