U.S. Olympic Trials: Jack Aikins Top Seed in 200 Back; Destin Lasco Scratches

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

U.S. Olympic Trials: Jack Aikins Top Seed in 200 Back; Destin Lasco Scratches

The reputation of the American men’s 200 backstroke program needs little introduction. The U.S. has brought home a medal from every Olympics since 1996 in the event – or, if you prefer longer than 64 of the 66 swimmers entered in that event Wednesday have been alive. The Tokyo Olympics was the first time since Barcelona that a man from a nation other than the U.S. stood atop the Olympic podium.

That man, Russia’s Evgeny Rylov, won’t be in Paris. Which opens wide the door to renewed American dominance.

Jack Aikins looks set to be a part of that, leading the way in prelims at U.S. Olympic Trials, setting the top time in the morning at 1:56.24. Ryan Murphy eased to third, with Keaton Jones in second.

The second qualifying spot around presumably Murphy, who led the way in the 100 back and won this event at the 2016 Olympics, is open, with 100 back qualifier Hunter Armstrong not trying this distance, instead opting for the 100 free. It opened even wider with the scratch of Destin Lasco, the second seed. Lasco is in the final of the men’s 100 freestyle Wednesday night, which is three events after the 200 back semifinal in a bad bit of timing for the 2023 World Championship qualifier. He finished 16th in the 200 back in Fukuoka but netted a bronze medal from the relay.

Aikins is looking to lay claim to that spot. One of four returning finalists from Omaha, he won the first of three circle-seeded heats in a dominant 1:56.24. He was more than a second up on Hunter Tapp, who finished seventh overall in 1:57.93. Aikins’ best time in 2024 is 1:56.21 from the World Championships in Doha, which is ranked 13th in the world.

The second circle-seeded heat, sans Lasco, was more sedate. Caleb Maldari won it in 1:58.16 to garner the eighth seed. Jones went 1:57.52 to best Murphy, who built his back half on the way to third place in 1:57.78, in the final heat of nine.

The 200 back was rife with huge jumps from prelims. Eight swimmers dropped times under 2 minutes from the non-circle-seeded heats, five making it back. That includes Ben Irwin of Navy, who finished 12th in prelims despite swimming in the first heat. Fourth-place Tommy Hagar and David King, who is tied for fifth with Daniel Diehl, emerged from the third heat to make the semis.

Jay Litherland made it back in 13th place. Colby Mefford, younger brother of 2021 Olympian Bryce Mefford, scratched out. He was seeded 31st. Kieran Smith also scratched.

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