Ryan Murphy Notches His Fastest 200 Back Performance of 2024 (Club Excellence Challenge Men’s Roundup)

Ryan Murphy
Ryan Murphy -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Ryan Murphy Notches His Fastest 200 Back Performance of 2024 (Club Excellence Challenge Men’s Roundup)

The top U.S. men’s backstroker of the past decade, Ryan Murphy, is hoping to win medals at a third consecutive Olympics this summer, and he appears to be rounding into form just in time for the upcoming Olympic Trials. Murphy, the 2016 Olympic champion in both backstroke events as well as a world titlist in both the 200 back (2022) and 100 back (2023), earned a win in the longer event at USA Swimming’s Club Excellence Challenge meet in Irvine, Calif.

In a head-to-head duel, Murphy held off Cal teammate Hugo Gonzalez, who represents Spain internationally, to get the win in 1:56.64. Gonzalez was just behind in 1:57.05, with fellow Golden Bear Keaton Jones third (1:57.79). Surprisingly, 200-yard back NCAA champion and World Championships finalist Destin Lasco fell to fifth (2:03.51).

The only American to top Murphy’s time this year is Jack Aikins, who went 1:56.21 on his way to fourth place at the World Championships in February. He swam a time of 1:57.52 to take the win in Atlanta, beating out Yeziel Morales Miranda (1:58.76). The fastest time in Austin belonged to Chris O’Connor (2:03.54).

Friday evening’s session at all three meets continued with the 200 freestyle, 400 IM and 100 butterfly.

Men’s 200 Freestyle

The United States men are looking to reclaim a medal the men’s 800 free relay at the Olympic Games after a dramatic podium miss in 2021. Beating Great Britain will be a tough task, but the American men will have plenty of options to fill out the relay at next month’s Olympic Trials.

The top times of the night belonged to Kieran Smith and Carson Foster, both members of the U.S. 800 free relay at the last two years’ World Championships. Both men clocked 1:47.10 to win their respective heats, with Smith winning in Atlanta in a tight finish over Mexico’s Jorge Iga (1:47.15) and Tomas Koski (1:47.30). Meanwhile, Foster dominated the Austin race with an identical mark to Smith.

Caeleb Dressel could be in the mix for the longer free relay after he clocked 1:47.38 for fourth place in Atlanta. Charlie Hawke, a native of Australia currently competing at the University of Alabama, was fifth (1:47.93), while Jake Mitchell, a finals swimmer on the 800 free relay at last year’s Worlds, took sixth despite a strong mark of 1:48.29.

Two more swimmers clocked 1:47s in Irvine, with Cal’s Gabriel Jett leading the way in 1:47.88 and Stanford’s Henry McFadden going 1:47.95. Finishing short of that mark was Luke Hobson, who has established himself as Olympic Trials favorite in the 200 free after winning bronze at the February World Championships and then swimming the fastest time ever in the 200-yard free at the NCAA Championships. Hobson ended up third in Austin in 1:49.35.

Men’s 400 IM

Before he swam his strong 200 free, Carson Foster swam the fastest 400 IM time of the weekend, hitting the country’s fastest mark this year in the 400 IM during a time trial in Austin. Foster, the silver medalist in the event at the 2022 and 2023 World Championships, swam a time of 4:10.79 in the solo swim, moving himself to No. 6 in the world rankings.

Bobby Finke, better known for his Olympic-gold-medal-winning ways in distance freestyle, doubles as a strong IMer, and he clocked a mark of 4:14.44 to win the 400 IM in Atlanta. Well back were Alabama’s Tommy Hagar (4:22.84) and Florida’s Mason Laur (4:23.81). Lakeside’s Cooper Lucas swam the fastest time in Austin (4:24.52), and UC-Santa Barbara’s Taber daCosta won in Irvine (4:25.08).

Men’s 100 Butterfly

Following his 200 free performance, Caeleb Dressel continued his strong evening with a 100 butterfly win in 51.38, a half-second behind his season-best of 50.84 but very solid considering the double. Santiago Grassi (51.78) and Youssef Ramadan (51.96) also cleared 52 in Atlanta. Over in Austin, Shaine Casas finished just shy of Dressel’s mark with a strong time of 51.48, with Danny Kovac coming in one second behind (52.48).

In Irvine, Michael Andrew continued his strong weekend. After going sub-1:00 in Thursday’s 100 breast, he swam the second-quickest mark of the night overall at 51.83, beating 2023 World Champs bronze medalist Dare Rose by almost a second. Rose clocked 52.76, just ahead of teammate Matthew Jensen (52.88).

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