U.S. Olympic Trials: Veteran Ryan Murphy, Newcomer Hunter Armstrong Punch 100 Back Tickets

Hunter Armstrong; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

U.S. Olympic Trials: Veteran Ryan Murphy, Newcomer Hunter Armstrong Punch 100 Back Tickets

For nearly three decades, the equation for American men’s backstroke has been plug and play. With stars like Aaron Peirsol, Ryan Lochte, Lenny Krayzelburg and now Ryan Murphy, that second spot hasn’t just been coveted real estate. The rising tide has often lifted runners-up, even of the surprising variety, to Olympic glory.

Hunter Armstrong, step on up.

Murphy defended his crown by winning in 52.33 seconds Tuesday night. But Armstrong bested a field of competitors with his fast closing ability to that second spot in 52.48, the sixth-fastest time in the world.

First Murphy, the reigning Olympic champion who took care of business. Under world-record pace most of the way, he settled for an improved time this season and leap-frogged Mitch Larkin into fourth in the world.

“Nerves are motivating,” Murphy said. “I wake up every day with a sense of urgency and a lot of that is due to guys in this field.”

Then there’s Armstrong. Not Shaine Casas, twice an NCAA champion this year and tipped as a rising young star. Not Bryce Mefford, the Cal star who was first after prelims.

Instead, it was Armstrong, who showed his mettle in Omaha. He was a surprise performer in the semifinals Monday and backed it by laying down another best time, 52.48, supplanting Casas for sixth fastest in the world.

“I’ve really been working on managing emotions, especially from a leadership perspective on my team,” Hunter Armstrong said. “I’m on a high right now. I’m just thankful for all the support I’ve gotten and of course to the lord above for getting me here.”

It’s been a rapid rise for Armstrong. He entered trials ranked 30th in the world, off the TYR Pro Swim Series stop in May. He didn’t have a particularly stellar NCAAs for Ohio State, where he didn’t make an A final. He was 13th in the 100 back, and 21st in the 50 free.

Casas was .04 off his best time, in 52.76. Mefford was under 53 again in 52.91, and Justin Ress took fifth in 53.00. Sixth was 36-year-old Matt Grevers, the Olympic gold medalist in London and one of those outstanding names in the all-time backstroke ledger, in 53.27.

“Matt is an incredible guy and incredible athlete,” Murphy said. “To be second at the Olympics in 2008 and still be going at this level is amazing. He dominated the Olympic trials in 2012. He came down the stairs and he told me I was next. He has always given me a lot of confidence. I hope that is not it for him, but what an incredible career. The sport will miss him dearly.”

Men’s 100 Backstroke Results

  1. Ryan Murphy, 52.33
  2. Hunter Armstrong, 52.48
  3. Shaine Casas, 52.76
  4. Bryce Mefford, 52.91
  5. Justin Ress, 53.00
  6. Matt Grevers, 53.27
  7. Hunter Tapp, 53.45
  8. Michael Andrew, 53.59

World Rankings

  1. Evgeny Rylov, RUS, 52.12
  2. Kliment Kolesnikov, RUS, 52.13
  3. Xu Jiayu, CHN, 52.17
  4. Ryan Murphy, USA, 52.33
  5. Mitch Larkin, AUS, 52.38
  6. Hunter Armstrong, 52.48
  7. Shaine Casas, USA, 52.72
  8. Apostolos Christou, GRE, 52.77
  9. Matt Grevers, USA, 52.82
  10. Thomas Ceccon, ITA, 52.84
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