2016 Trials Throwback: Cal Pals Ryan Murphy, Jacob Pebley Take 200 Back

Ryan Murphy, left, and Jacob Pebley after the 200 back final at 2016 Trials Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2016 Trials Throwback: Cal Pals Ryan Murphy, Jacob Pebley Take 200 Back

Each day during the pre-scheduled days of the 2020 US Olympic Trials, Swimming World will take its readers back four years to the 2016 Trials in Omaha to recap each event, and will offer some insight into what the events will look like in 2021.

The gauntlet had been thrown down by Ryan Murphy three days earlier with his performance in the 100 backstroke at the 2016 Trials. But that didn’t mean anything would be easy for Murphy, not in a program that had won five straight Olympic gold medals (plus three silvers and a bronze) and held the world record since 1999 in the event.

As is fitting with the insane depth of the American men’s backstroke program, the 200 merely marked a shift change. David Plummer, who’d put all his eggs in the 100-backstroke basket and been rewarded with his first Olympics berth at age 30, wasn’t entered in the 200. Matt Grevers, normally a strict sprinter and the reigning 100 back champ, was. Ryan Lochte, who won the event in 2008 and earned bronze in 2012, eschewed the event despite being seeded fourth. Reigning Olympic champ Tyler Clary was in, though, facing his last chance to get to Rio.

The Race

Jacob Pebley, who turned in a strong 100 back, was quickest in prelims at 1:56.29. Clary was second at 1:56.85 with Murphy third at 1:57.35. Grevers finished 14th and scratched out of semis. That top three was preserved in semis, with Murphy setting the pace at 1:55.04 and Clary third within a second.

There was no interrupting the University of California wave in the 2016 Trials finals. Murphy took control from the outset, separating from the field with Pebley behind, hugging the lane line next to his college teammate. Murphy touched in 1:53.95. Clary mounted a late charge, but it wasn’t enough to displace Pebley, who went 1:54.77 and broke into tears looking at the scoreboard. Clary was the clear third in 1:55.33. It marked the second backstroke event of the week in which the reigning Olympic champ failed to qualify for an Olympic defense.


  1. Ryan Murphy 1:53.95
  2. Jacob Pebley 1:54.77
  3. Tyler Clary 1:55.33
  4. Sean Lehane 1:56.44
  5. Austin Katz 1:57.20
  6. Robert Owen 1:57.48
  7. Michael Taylor 1:57.86
  8. Hennessey Stuart 1:58.69

On to Rio

Both Pebley and Murphy found their way into finals without issue, Murphy by winning his semifinal heat, Pebley finishing third in the faster semi, though Russia’s Evgeny Rylov and Australian Mitch Larkin would occupy the middle of the pool. The silver medalist from London, Ryosuke Irie of Japan, snuck into finals in lane 1.

In the final, Murphy took the initiative on the second 50. He touched the final wall two tenths ahead of Larkin and seven tenths up on Rylov. Murphy added to the distance off the wall, but the field started to reel him in. Ultimately, Murphy had just enough at the end, touching in 1:53.62 to complete the golden double. Larkin took silver in 1:53.96 with Rylov in bronze .01 back. Pebley was fifth (1:55.52).

2016 Trials Throwbacks:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

Day 5:

Day 6: