U.S. Olympic Trials: Destin Lasco and Bryce Mefford Lead Cal Explosion in 200 Back Prelims; Ryan Murphy Fifth

Bryce Mefford. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

U.S. Olympic Trials: Destin Lasco and Bryce Mefford Lead Cal Explosion in 200 Back Prelims; Ryan Murphy Fifth

California has put together an elite backstroke group under coach Dave Durden, also the head coach of the U.S. men’s Olympic team, and the Bears will be well-represented in the men’s 200 back semifinals, with four of the top seven qualifiers out of prelims. The top qualifier actually came out of the circle seeded heats as Destin Lasco, who just finished his freshman year at Cal, blasted his previous lifetime best by more than four seconds. Swimming in heat three of six and in lane eight, Lasco dropped his best time from a 2:00.91 to a 1:56.88.

Lasco was third in the 100-yard back and second in the 200-yard back at the NCAA championships this year, but he did not have a great 100 back. He initially missed the semifinals in 17th place before being scratched into the final, but he is now in pole position in the 200-meter event.

Qualifying second was Bryce Mefford, another Cal-trained swimmer who dropped more than a second off his best time in the 100 back before placing fourth in the final. Mefford swam a time of 1:57.51, just off his personal best of 1:57.39, but he should be in line for more of a drop moving forward. The next two qualifiers also dropped huge margins from their best times from non-seeded heats: SwimAtlanta’s Jack Akins, also swimming in Lasco’s heat, qualified third in 1:57.57, and NC State’s Hunter Tapp took fourth in 1:57.62.

Ryan Murphy, the reigning Olympic gold medalist and already on his second Olympic team by virtue of winning the 100 back, looked cruised and controlled as he won the final heat in 1:57.95. Expect Murphy to turn on the jets more over the next two rounds as he is the heavy favorite in the event. Longhorn’s Austin Katz, the bronze medalist at the 2018 Pan Pacs, was sixth in 1:58.09, and the fourth Cal swimmer, Daniel Carr, took seventh in 1:59.09.

Dynamo’s Ian Grum took eighth in 1:59.23, while Texas A&M’s Shaine Casas was ninth in 1:59.52 after fading to third in his heat. Casas has been one of the breakthrough swimmers in the country over the past few years, In 2019, he won U.S. Nationals in the 100 back and took second in the 200 back and 200 IM, and he was the NCAA swimmer of the year after capturing three titles at this year’s championships and challenging American records. Casas is also entered in the 100 fly Friday, but the 200 back is his best chance to qualify for Tokyo. Prior to the meet, he was considered the odds-on favorite for the second spot.

Florida’s Clark Beach took 10th in 1:59.57 as the last swimmer to break 2:00. The cutoff time for the semifinals was 2:00.71, with Alex Boratto earning the last spot.


  1. Destin Lasco 1:56.88
  2. Bryce Mefford 1:57.51
  3. Jack Akins 1:57.57
  4. Hunter Tapp 1:57.62
  5. Ryan Murphy
  6. Austin Katz 1:58.09
  7. Daniel Carr 1:59.09
  8. Ian Grum 1:59.23
  9. Shaine Casas 1:59.52
  10. Clark Beach 1:59.57
  11. Jacob Steele 2:00.28
  12. Will Grant 2:00.41
  13. Tim Gallagher 2:00.55
  14. Nick Alexander 2:00.66
  15. Jack Dahlgren, 2:00.67
  16. Alex Boratto 2:00.71