2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: Murphy’s Time In Men’s 200 Back

Since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the world has seen an American at the top of the men’s 200 backstroke podium at every Games. Brad Bridgewater (1996), Lenny Krayzelburg (2000), Aaron Piersol (2004), and current U.S. National Team members Ryan Lochte (2008) and Tyler Clary (2012) have led the red, white, and blue to 200 back victory. Heading into the Rio Olympics, the U.S. will have their hands full in this event. The men will have to battle it out in Omaha to determine who the Americans will send up against a stacked international field that includes Mitch Larkin, Ryosuke Irie, and Evgeny Rylov.

Ryan Murphy? What's he thinking, standing there with Team USA? 2014 Pan Pacific Championships (courtesy of Scott Davis)

Ryan Murphy? What’s he thinking, standing there with Team USA? 2014 Pan Pacific Championships (courtesy of Scott Davis)

For the past 2 seasons, Ryan Murphy has started to build his presence on the international stage for Team USA. He swam in his first long course World Championships last summer, racing in the 200 back, the mixed 400 medley relay, and the men’s 400 medley relay. Individually, Murphy made his first world championship final appearance in the 200 back, winding up 5th in a personal best 1:55.00. He had an explosive NCAA season, breaking the American records in both the 100 (43.49) and 200 yard backstrokes (1:35.73). To follow that, he’s already gone a best time in the 200 meter back this year, posting a 1:54.94 at the Canadian Olympic Trials in April. Murphy’s momentum and his experience as an Olympic Trials finalist in 2012 set him up well for Omaha.

Tyler Clary 2016 USA Swimming Pro Swim Series stop Austin Texas (photo: Mike Lewis, Ola Vista Photography)

Tyler Clary 2016 USA Swimming Pro Swim Series stop Austin Texas (photo: Mike Lewis, Ola Vista Photography)

Swimming alongside Murphy in the 2015 World Championships was veteran Tyler Clary, the defending Olympic gold medalist in this event. In 2012, Clary qualified for his first Olympic team, which led to his statement performance in London, where he swam a 1:53.41 to win the 200 back. This Olympic cycle, Clary has a bronze in the 200 back from 2013 Worlds (1:54.64) and a gold from 2014 Pan Pacs (1:54.91). He fell off the pace last summer, placing 7th in Kazan with a 1:56.26.

Ryan Lochte at the 2015 FINA world championships Kazan Russia (photo: Mike Lewis, Ola Vista Photography)

Ryan Lochte at the 2015 FINA world championships Kazan Russia (photo: Mike Lewis, Ola Vista Photography)

Ryan Lochte, the 2008 gold medalist in this event, has a big decision to make about whether or not he will swim it in Omaha. It’s possible that Lochte may not swim the 200 back because it clashes with the 200 IM at trials. Lochte, now 32, has welcomed the challenge of that tough double in the past, but the recovery time between events has become a bigger issue with age. Lochte was the favorite to win this event in London before Clary pulled off the upset, and ended up with the bronze behind Irie. He bounced back the next year, winning 2013 Worlds in 1:53.79. In 2014, he was 3rd in the event at Nationals with a 1:56.47, but opted out of the event at Pan Pacs, and didn’t swim it at 2015 Worlds. If he chooses to race the 200 back at trials he could make a 3rd Olympic appearance in the event.

Matt Grevers, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the 100 back, hasn’t traditionally swum the 200 back at major meets, but it also worth mentioning. At 2012 Trials, he qualified 3rd after prelims, but scratched out of the race before semifinals. He swam a textile best this season to win U.S. Winter Nationals in December, clocking a 1:57.24.

Jacob Pebley, National Champion in men's 200m backstroke (courtesy of Rafael Domeyko)

Jacob Pebley, National Champion in men’s 200m backstroke (courtesy of Rafael Domeyko)

Jacob Pebley, Murphy’s teammate at Cal, won U.S. Nationals in this event last summer. He also swam a new best time to win the 2015 World University Games, posting a 1:56.29. This year, he swam a new best time to place 2nd behind Murphy at NCAAs in the 200 yard back in 1:38.50. Shortly after, he came close to a best time with a 1:56.40 at Canadian Olympic trials. Pebley will return to Omaha after finishing 7th in the final at 2012 Trials.

Sean Lehane, a Tennessee senior who raced Murphy and Pebley at NCAAs, made his first U.S. National team last year. He represented Team USA at 2015 Pan Ams, where dropped almost 2 seconds to set a new meet record in prelims at 1:57.11, and won gold in the final. Lehane will look to make his first Olympic Trials final after placing 26th in this event in 2012.

Patrick Mulcare will make his first Trials appearance with strong momentum from his performance at 2015 U.S. Winter Nationals. Mulcare dropped over 2 seconds from his best time, clocking a 1:57.34 to finish 2nd to Grevers by just a tenth. He enters Omaha as the 3rd fastest American so far this season.

Virginia Tech’s Robert Owen blasted a new personal best 1:57.96 in a long course time trial the day after NCAAs. That time makes him the 5th fastest American this year. Owen was a scorer in the yards version of this event at the 2016 NCAA Championships, where he posted a 1:40.60.

Dynamo Swim Club’s Michael Taylor represented the U.S. in this event at the 2015 Junior World Championships. Taylor posted a personal best 1:58.10 at Nationals to make the team before going on to take silver at Junior Worlds. At 17 years old, Taylor will travel to Omaha for his first Olympic Trials, and has a shot at making the final.

Texas’ Jonathan Roberts swam his first sub-2:00 since 2014 to win the 200 back at the Longhorn Elite Invite. Roberts clocked a 1:58.74 to beat Grevers at that meet, matching his personal best from 2014 Nationals. That time makes Roberts the 10th fastest American this year, and puts him in the conversation as a potential finalist in Omaha.

Top 8 Predictions:

Place Name Best Since London Predicted Time Training Base
1 Ryan Murphy 1:54.94 1:54.1 University of California, Berkeley
2 Jacob Pebley 1:56.29 1:55.5 University of California, Berkeley
3 Ryan Lochte 1:53.79 1:55.5 SwimMAC Carolina, Charlotte
4 Tyler Clary 1:54.64 1:55.8 SwimMAC Carolina, Charlotte
5 Sean Lehane 1:57.11 1:56.6 University of Tennessee, Knoxville
6 Patrick Mulcare 1:57.34 1:56.8 University of Southern California, Los Angeles
7 Robert Owen 1:57.96 1:57.3 Virginia Tech, Blacksburg
8 Michael Taylor 1:58.10 1:57.5 Dynamo Swim Club, Atlanta

Darkhorse: BYU’s Jake Taylor has made huge improvements in the 200 meter back over the last 2 years. In 2014, he lowered his best from a 2:10.13 to a 2:05.32. He then dropped another 5 seconds in 2015 to post a 2:00.74 at U.S. Nationals. Taylor, who was out of the water for 2 years to serve as a missionary after his freshman season, may not have shown us all he’s capable of yet.

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THEO
5 years ago

Mostly agree with SwimSwam picks but think that Pebley is capable of 1:54 mid.

Murphy: 1:54.20
Pebley: 1:54.60

THEO
Reply to  THEO
5 years ago

Murphy may go faster than that though, he’s sort unpredictable in this one. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was 1:53 low (but I would be super excited)

Pineapple
Reply to  THEO
5 years ago

Pebley is more likely to make the Olympics than his college medley relay team

SwimNerd
5 years ago

Wouldn’t that be something, the Cal backstroke duo leading Team USA to Rio…

Smoothswimmer
5 years ago

Omaha
Ryan Murphy 1:54.04 PB
Jacob Pebley 1:55.66 PB

Rio
Ryan Murphy 1:53.20 for silver in PB
Jacob Pebley 1:55.01 for 6th in PB

Swimmer A
5 years ago

The 400 IM preview hasn’t come out yet, but I think we know how it’s going down. Clary out of the top 2 and off the Olympic team.

Andrew Majeske
5 years ago

I disagree on the second spot. Tyler Clary dropped his personal best in the 100 LCM back twice at the Austin Grand Prix in January. That bodes well for the 200 back at Trials–he could well win it.

Hswimmer
Reply to  Andrew Majeske
5 years ago

The 100 and 200 back are two very different events.

Andrew Majeske
Reply to  Hswimmer
5 years ago

Yes–I remember the difference between the events well. But for a guy like Clary, who doesn’t have much 100 speed, to finally drop .4 off his previous best–(his new best is 55.1)– that is intriguing for what it might mean for his 200 (PB 1.53.4).

SamH
5 years ago

I really do not know what to predict here. Ryan Murphy is the only person I think will for sure make the team. I would love to see him do it in 1:53.7 (cause that puts him in gold contention), but it will more likely be 1:54 low, which is not a solid gold contender (if Larkin is 1:53 low again).

Pebley I guess I could see going sub 1:55, he has had a great year short course and long course. Would be pretty exciting to see Cal take two spots in an event.

Clary is where I start to waiver. Historically he has big tapers, but has he even been under 2 minutes this year? Honestly? It seems… Read more »

JP Input is too short
Reply to  SamH
5 years ago

1:58.6 in Austin in January.

SamH
Reply to  JP Input is too short
5 years ago

Thank you!

bobo gigi
Reply to  SamH
5 years ago

Lochte the best IMer ever? Is it a joke? 😆

2003
200 IM gold MP
400 IM gold MP

2004
200 IM gold MP
400 IM gold MP

2005
200 IM gold MP

2007
200 IM gold MP
400 IM gold MP

2008
200 IM gold MP
400 IM gold MP

2012
200 IM gold MP

Legends are written at olympic games.
5 of last 6 gold medals at olympic games have been won by MP.
The last 3 gold medals in the 200 IM have been won by MP at olympic games. Historical.
MP has swum 12 times an IM event at worlds or olympic games… Read more »

bobo gigi
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

By the way I agree with the rest of your comment.
The mystery is Clary. And not only in that event.
I don’t know what to do with him. 🙂

Anti Bobo
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

Lochte has the world record in the 200 IM and his best 400 IM is over 3 seconds better than Phelps’s best in a textile kneeskin. He said arguably the best not definitively

thezwimmer
Reply to  Anti Bobo
5 years ago

Please, if you are going to diss Mr. Bobo Gigi, you at least need your facts straight. Lochte’s best 400 IM textile (and overall) is 4:05.1 from London. Phelps’ best textile 400 IM is from 2007 at 4:06.2. If you want to argue that that was before the swimsuit ban, Phelps did it in a Fastskin2. Putting that aside, however, he swam a 4:07.8 at trials, which had he done it in London, would have won him a silver medal.

Team Rwanda
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

OK, we get it. You are a fan of “MP”. But that was not what the comment was about. And the FACT is Lochte has the world record in 200IM and the fastest time in textile in 400IM, so technically he is the best IMer. But again the comment was for Lochte not against Phelps, calm your statistics down

Caleb
Reply to  Team Rwanda
5 years ago

Sorry, guys, that’s ridiculous, unless you just want to say a blanket statement, “The current world record holder in a given event is the greatest swimmer of all time in that event.” That would save the arguments. If you don’t say that, there’s no way Lochte has been a “better” IM’er than Phelps.

MTK
Reply to  Team Rwanda
5 years ago

Having the WR doesn’t make you the greatest ever. It just means you have the fastest time ever. Greatness comes from consistency and longevity. The reality is, that Lochte has only beaten Phelps head-to-head internationally once in each of the IM events. Those are the 2 swims you’ve alluded to above, but the reality is that the two years in which those swims happened (2011 and 2012) were by far the best of Lochte’s career. When you take into account a) Phelps’ significant winning record vs Lochte internationally and b) the fact that Phelps has been elite in these events 3-4 years longer than Lochte, then there’s no valid argument in favour of Lochte being greater all-time

SwimmerFoxJet
Reply to  Team Rwanda
5 years ago

Phelps’s 4:06.2 was at the end of his world championships, that means after 200 Fly heats semis finals, 4×100 free relay, 200 free heats semis finals, 200 IM heats semis finals, 4×200 free, 100 fly heats semis final, and then the 400 IM heats hours before the 4:06.2 with a jammer FSII. Lochte swam a fantastic 400 IM as his second swim first final of the London Games. 4:05.1 with a jammer LZR (I forget the name). Lochte had a better suit, and was way more rested.

iLikePsych
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

In response to the discussion, the fact that there’s argument about it makes the statement “arguably the best IMer” true.

SwimmerFoxJet
Reply to  iLikePsych
5 years ago

1:54.16 by Michael Phelps is the most impressive swim we have ever seen from him, and is more so than Ryan Lochte ( no offense). Even more than Us Nats. Because he was in such bad shape, his training was horrible, he was always fighting with his coaching and missing days or weeks of practices. And the 4:07.8 at OT in the 400 IM. He went a 4::09 because doing a double taper is hard when you don’t train enough for it. Imagine Lochte slacking off like Phelps, he would go slower times. Like 1:55 and 4:08 or 4:09

Attila the Hunt
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

Bobo,
I find it hypocritical of you that you strongly objected to an opinion that Lochte is the best ever IMer.
You called in strongest terms that Simone Manuel and Abbey Weitzeil as “America’s Greatest Ever Female Sprinters”.

Using your own metrics to measure greatness, Lochte is FAR closer as best IMer ever than Manuel and Weitzel as “America’s Greatest Ever Female Sprinters”

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

Lichte is stil the WR holder of the 200 and 400 IM short course meters … that counts in my book . Those 2 are the greatest Imers in History , period .

SwimmerFoxJet
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

You also forgot about 2006: 200 IM GOLD (1:55.84 WR) MP

Lennart van Haaften
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

Lochte is not a “far better” IMer than Darnyi. Go ahead and argue Lochte is “better” if you want, but someone with 4 Olympic IM golds simply cannot be far worse than someone with (currently) 1 Olympic IM gold. Darnyi also broke 6 IM WRs, long course.

Attila the Hunt
Reply to  Lennart van Haaften
5 years ago

Bobo may have followed swimming only when MP started winning a lot of golds. So he may not know who Tamas Darnyi is.

Shifferg
Reply to  SamH
5 years ago

Not that anyone is really reading this anymore, but can I just explain my reasoning? Not everyone has to agree with it, just in my own mind- this is how I view it:

Lochte WR in the 200 IM, textile WR 400IM
He is also the all around best across 100, 200, 400; SCY, SCM, LCM. Yes yes, no 100 IM LC, but whatever.

If we are going most legendary IMer, sure Phelps whatever.

Lol, hindsight maybe I should have left that bit out.

Stanford
5 years ago

I think Carter Griffin makes the top eight

RJ Cid
5 years ago

tyler clary, put some respek on his name

defending champion deserves more credit.

Irish Ringer
Reply to  RJ Cid
5 years ago

I respect his 2012 performance but I believe the Cal boys have passed him in 2016.

rjcid
Reply to  Irish Ringer
5 years ago

maybe you are correct. I just dig his grit. Let’s see what he has this weekend, maybe he can pull it off.

SUNY Cal
Reply to  rjcid
5 years ago

Think it’s time for Clary to start his car racing career now. He said he would like to do that when he retired from swimming!

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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