U.S. Olympic Trials: Golden Double for Cal with Ryan Murphy, Bryce Mefford in 200 Back

Bryce Mefford; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

U.S. Olympic Trials: Golden Double for Cal with Ryan Murphy, Bryce Mefford in 200 Back

Take your pick of the metric – three of the top eight times in the world this season, six consecutive Olympic gold medals – and the United States is backstroke country on the men’s side. No matter who fills the spots, the light of American backstroke has remained undimmed for more than a generation dating back to the 1996 Olympics.

In both events this year, given the youth behind him, that legacy remains on the shoulders of Ryan Murphy.

Friday night, he didn’t seem burdened by any extra weight. Murphy was a bodylength clear of the field at the 150-meter wall, and though he got a push from Bryce Mefford, he was still comfortably ahead of the field in 1:54.20. It’s eight-hundredths shy of his time from the 2019 World Championships, but it applies pressure on the world-leading time of Evgeny Rylov this year.

“I definitely feel like I put in the work,” Murphy said. “I put in the work. I worked really hard. I worked better than I have any other year. I’m excited to get that double taper going.”

Though he didn’t don a golden cap in the final, Murphy was one of four University of California swimmers in the final. He’ll be one of the two headed to Tokyo, with Mefford closing strong to get to the wall in 1:54.79. It’s a cut of nearly two seconds from his best time and the fifth-fastest time in the world, part of a select sub-1:55 crew.


Ryan Murphy; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“It was a great swim. I felt great during it,” Mefford said. “Every time I went by that board, I was looking at it, trying to see where I was. It was a little scary but I was happy to be racing with my Cal brothers and my family in the stands and my Cal family in the stands was a great experience.”

Speaking of select crews, the Cal backstroke group again proved itself pretty special. Mefford was the only other representative in the 100 back final that Murphy won, but both Destin Lasco and Daniel Carr joined them in the 200 back final. Lasco was fifth, with Carr eighth.

All train together under Dave Durden, and their differing approaches to the backstroke races accentuate each other’s strengths and help the others improve weak spots.

“That’s it right there. You just watched it,” Mefford said. “There’s a lot more that are involved in it than just these four guys. … It’s a brutal way to practice and train every day, but it obviously pays off for all four guys that were in that final.”

“I think it’s certainly a level of comfortability when you’re going against guys that you race in practice,” Murphy said. “We have our backstroke group over two lanes, so I’ll get each of those guys on a day-in, day-out basis. … Those guys are really good. Thank god they’re going fast because I would have been in trouble if they didn’t.”

Austin Katz finished third in 1:55.86. He had entered with a slightly quicker seed time of 1:55.57 that had been seventh in the world, though it wasn’t quicker than Mefford put up in the final. Ditto Shaine Casas, who went 1:57.64 in the final. His best time of 1:55.79 was the eighth-fastest in the world entering the swim.

Mefford was fourth in the 100 back earlier this week. He said he drew on the experience to inform his swim Friday night.

“I learned I think a lot from that 100,” Mefford said. “That 100 has always been a struggle for me because I have a slower tempo and more of a stronger stroke. Murph had talked quite a bit to Dave about working in tempo trainers and stuff. I think that kind of helped my 100 back and my preparation for my 200 back, having a little bit higher of a tempo through it and keeping that tempo through the whole 200.”

As far as that backstroke legacy, Murphy has often said – and repeated again Friday – that he’s not burdened by it. His competitiveness is already sufficiently high anyway that there’s no room to go up.

But after watching Hunter Armstrong become the latest in a long line of first-time backstroke Olympians this week, Mefford is happy to add his name to the list. And he’s ready for the challenge that brings in Tokyo.

“It’s kind of crazy because this is a younger event and guys are learning,” Mefford said. “… These are young guys and they’re coming up strong and they’re here to represent Team USA and here to show as he next Ryan Murphy or the next Jacob Pebley, or the guys that are moving on (Matt) Grevers, they’re going to move up to fill in those spots, and it’s definitely nice to watch.”

Men’s 200 Backstroke Results

  1. Ryan Murphy, 1:54.20
  2. Bryce Mefford, 1:54.79
  3. Austin Katz, 1:55.86
  4. Hunter Tapp, 1:56.76
  5. Destin Lasco, 1:56.98
  6. Shaine Casas, 1:57.64
  7. Jack Aikins, 1:57.90
  8. Daniel Carr, 1:58.76

FINA World Rankings

  1. Evgeny Rylov, RUS, 1:53.23
  2. Ryan Murphy, USA, 1:54.12
  3. Mitch Larkin, AUS, 1:54.38
  4. Luke Greenbank, GBR, 1:54.43
  5. Bryce Mefford, USA, 1:54.79
  6. Xu Jiayu, CHN, 1:55.24
  7. Ryosuke Irie, JPN, 1:55.52
  8. Austin Katz, USA, 1:55.57
  9. Shaine Casas, USA, 1:55.79
  10. Keita Sunama, LPN, 1:56.06
Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x