U.S. Olympic Trials: Ryan Murphy Crushes Last 50 to Top 200 Back Semis; Four Cal Swimmers into Final

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Defending Olympic gold medalist Ryan Murphy was toying with the field for the first 150 meters, letting Jack Akins take the lead and hold it, but he exploded off the last turn to catapult into first place. That was enough for Murphy to earn the fastest qualifying time into the final, his 1:55.60 improving slightly on his season-best time and maintaining his spot as the fifth-ranked swimmers in the world this year.

In Friday’s final, Murphy will be chasing the fastest time in the world held by Russia’s Evgeny Rylov, who swam a 1:53.23 in April. Rylov has won gold to Murphy’s silver at the last two World Championships, so Rylov represents Murphy’s biggest rival to repeat gold. The second-fastest time in the world belongs to Australia’s Mitch Larkin, who will not swim the event in Tokyo, at 1:54.38, and the third-fastest to Great Britain’s Luke Greenbank at 1:54.43.

I think tomorrow I will be more excited. Tonight I just tried to race the field and as much as anything else, I was watching (Cal teammates) Destin (Lasco) and Daniel (Carr) and hoping they were in the front of the field,” Murphy said. “I think the 200 back, if you settle into a slow rhythm it is harder to speed up. Tomorrow, I’ll have quicker rhythm at the beginning and see if that makes me faster.”

Indeed, Lasco finished second in the heat in 1:56.81, and Carr was fourth in 1:57.73, and that earned both swimmers spots in the final as the fourth and seventh seeds, respectively. Meanwhile, in the first semifinal heat, Texas’ Austin Katz won a tight battle with Cal’s Bryce Mefford for the first-place finish, with Katz coming in at 1:56.26 and Mefford at 1:56.57. That meant that half of the finalists will have trained at Cal-Berkeley under coach Dave Durden.

I put myself in a good spot for tomorrow, and I’m excited,” Mefford said. “I’m so grateful to be in the place that I am. I nthe 100 back, I was so excited to go a better time than I came into the meet with. With the three other guys in the event, including Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley who used to swim with us, it’s incredible to be part of this group and represent them and the backstrokers that came before us.”

Akins was the fifth seed in 1:57.50, and Hunter Tapp was sixth in 1:57.55. Meanwhile, Shaine Casas put up a time of 1:58.58 to sneak into the A-final in eighth place. Casas, a three-time NCAA champion earlier this year, has had a relatively disappointing week that included a third-place finish in the 100 back, but he will have one more chance to book a spot in Tokyo in Friday’s final.


  1. Ryan Murphy 1:55.60
  2. Austin Katz 1:56.26
  3. Bryce Mefford 1:56.57
  4. Destin Lasco 1:56.81
  5. Jack Akins 1:57.50
  6. Hunter Tapp 1:57.55
  7. Daniel Carr 1:57.73
  8. Shaine Casas 1:58.58
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