Disclaimer: BlueSeventy Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The BlueSeventy Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
It’s time for a postmortem on the first iteration of USA Swimming’s SwimSquad battles. What really brought about Team Krayzelburg’s dominant win?
In two words: Matt Grevers.
First of all, it wasn’t all Grevers. Only four starting swimmers in the entire league scored the maximum 20 points. Three of them were on KrayzelburgSquad. The first was Amanda Kendall, who was outstanding in the butterfly races but also took advantage of an absent Kelsi Worrell. Second was Chase Kalisz, the #1 overall pick and nearly a lock for 20 points everytime he hits the pool. The third was Grevers, who had to beat out a stellar field of backstrokers for his perfect score.
American backstroke has always been insanely deep. That’s what brought about world-class ‘Trials Thirds’, or swimmers who would likely have medaled at the Olympics but missed the team by finishing 3rd at American Olympic Trials. That list includes Grevers and Tyler Clary in 2016, David Plummer and Nick Thoman in 2012 and Ryan Lochte and Clary in 2008.
In Austin, Grevers had to face Olympic champ and world record-holder Ryan Murphy, Olympian Jacob Pebley and World Champs team member (and 50 back specialist) Justin Ress, along with a couple of stellar young British swimmers.
Grevers topped the field to win the 100 back despite being 8 years older than anyone else in the field. At age 32, Grevers continues to excel after a disappointing 2016 Olympic Trials, and his continued presence on the national and international stage is keeping American backstroke in its world-dominant position. Grevers returned the next day to win the 50 back shootout, trading the top overall time back and forth with Ress through heats (Ress was 25.42, Grevers 25.61), quarterfinals (Grevers 25.20, Ress 25.39) and semifinals (Ress 25.10, Grevers 25.11) before winning the final 24.81 to 25.04.
Grevers persevered through four rounds of qualifying to ultimately beat Ress despite Ress being a whopping 12 years younger.
In SwimSquad terms, Murphy headed Natalie Coughlin’s squad and Ress powered Jason Lezak’s crew, meaning every Grevers win over the field was also carrying the team of another legendary veteran backstroker – Lenny Krayzelburg, whose team dominated by 19 points after getting 20 from Grevers in its “flex” starting spot.
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