2015 NCAA MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS
- NCAA record: 1:37.35 — Ryan Murphy (Cal) — 3/29/2014
- American record: 1:36.81 — Ryan Lochte (Daytona Beach) — 12/01/2007
- U.S. Open record: 1:36.81 — Ryan Lochte (Daytona Beach) — 12/01/2007
- 2014 NCAA Champion: Ryan Murphy (Cal) — 1:37.35
Ryan Murphy, defending champion and the future of American backstroke, went right by Tyler Clary‘s NCAA record of 1:37.58 last year with a 1:37.35 to light up the pool and take the title by well over a full second. His seed time this year is a 1:38.34, and all eyes are on Ryan Lochte‘s American and U.S. Open records from all the way back in 2007. He went into last year’s meet with a 1:39.21, and his current seed time is nearly a full second ahead of where he was in 2014.
While Murphy is expected to have an incredible swim here, there is plenty of talent in tow. Of the 29 invited swimmers, fourteen have notched ‘A’ cuts already this season, and names like David Nolan, Drew teDuits, and Jacob Pebley are still very relevant.
Nolan, whose biggest performance of the year came in the 200 IM, where he finally was able to make big improvements from high school and took down Lochte’s American record, has been edged out of a 200 back title since his freshman year. He touched 2nd in 2012 and 2013 and then 3rd last year. His seed time this year (1:40.05) is the fastest he’s been in season prior to the big meet, and although it’s not by much, he’s clearly having the best season of his life (at least in his IM). How he does in his events early on in the meet will impact the degree to which is attacks this race, and if he goes in on a high note, he has potential to blow past his personal best.
TeDuits rocketed to a NCAA title in 2013 after not even swimming in the event as a freshman in 2012, then fell to a tie for 30th in prelims last year. However, this year, he’s back to rocking it after posting some pretty impressive dual meet times. Although he’s been really unpredictable over the course of his NCAA career, he’s seeded 4th at 1:39.72, and we like how he’s looked this year. The Badger should be a worthy contender for the next best behind Murphy at the big meet.
Pebley was heavily recruited in high school, and proved he was the real deal with a 3rd place finish in this event followed by a 4th place finish last year, posting 1:39 mids both times. He’s only been 1:40.48 this season, but that’s almost exactly where he’s been the past two seasons going into NCAAs. Nolan, teDuits, and Pebley have been here before, and the three look solid to at least make the A final.
The 2nd seed, however, belongs to Hennessey Stuart of the NC State Wolfpack. Who, you ask? Stuart, a freshman, came into the NCAA with a best time of 1:42.75. That’s a pretty darn fast time for a high schooler, but he had yet to go under 1:43 before the ACC Championships. It was there that he exploded for a 1:39.73 in prelims to break the conference record, following up with an even faster time (1:39.37) in finals to break the record again. Considering the way that NC State, as a team, has performed well at NCAAs in recent years, it’ll be interesting to see what he can put together.
Sean Lehane went from 11th his freshman year to 7th last year. The Tennessee junior is seeded 3rd (1:39.65) and is part of the group of swimmers above that will be chasing Murphy. Possible contenders for the last few spots in the A final are sophomores Carter Griffin (Missouri) and Joe Patching (Auburn) along with Stanford freshman Patrick Conaton. Griffin didn’t make either final last year, but comes in as the #6 seed at 1:40.17. Patching touched at 11th last year in 1:40.67, and he comes in at #7 this year with a 1:40.46. That’s about a half second faster than Patching’s seed time last year, while Griffin is coming in way faster than his 1:41.67 seed time last year. Conaton wasn’t on many radars until the Pac 12 Champs this year, when he time trialed a 1:40.48, blowing away his previous best of 1:44.64, a time he hadn’t matched at the Art Adamson Invite.
TOP 8 PREDICTIONS
Dark Horse: Grigory Tarasevich (Louisville). The sophomore placed 18th in this event last year, just missing the B final, though he is seeded 12th this year. Hennessey Stuart stole the show at the ACC Championships with a furious 1:39.37 in finals, while Tarasevich finished in 2nd in 1:40.86. The Cardinals had a great meet at ACCs, and the 200s of stroke might be considered to be the program’s biggest strength.