Bryce Mefford Becomes Ninth American Sub-53 In Men’s 100 Backstroke


In an elite field that included the last two Olympic gold medalists and the reigning NCAA champion, it was someone no one would’ve expected, Bryce Mefford, who claimed the top seed out of the men’s 100 backstroke prelims on Day 2 of the U.S. Olympic Trials.

The 22-year-old came into the event seeded 14th, entered with his 54.34 swim from the 2019 World University Games, and blew that time out of the water, winning the penultimate heat in a blazing 52.99.

That showing earns Mefford the top seed coming into tonight’s semi-finals, and also makes him the ninth-fastest American of all-time, joining an elite group of U.S. men that have broken 53 seconds.

All-Time U.S. Rankings, Men’s 100 Backstroke (LCM)

  1. Ryan Murphy, 51.85 – 2016
  2. Aaron Peirsol, 51.94 – 2009
  3. Matt Grevers, 52.08 – 2012
  4. David Plummer, 52.12 – 2016
  5. Nick Thoman, 52.51 – 2009
  6. Randall Bal, 52.59 – 2008
  7. Shaine Casas, 52.72 – 2019
  8. Jacob Pebley, 52.95 – 2016
  9. Bryce Mefford, 52.99 – 2021
  10. Justin Ress, 53.00 – 2021

Mefford, who is coming off of his senior season in the NCAA with the California Golden Bears, had a previous best time of 53.84, which was set back at the 2018 Summer Nationals—prior to the Olympic Trials qualifying period.

Compared to that swim, Mefford got out three-tenths quicker in 25.72, but really made his ground on the back-half, closing in 27.27 compared to a 27.83 three years ago.

Prior to this morning, his fastest swim since the beginning of 2020 was a 54.63 from last month’s Atlanta Classic.

Finishing closely behind Mefford in the heats were three others who rank in the top 10 all-time nationally: Justin Ress (53.07), Shaine Casas (53.08) and Ryan Murphy (53.08). Matt Grevers, the 2012 Olympic champion and third-fastest American ever, qualified sixth in 53.65, while Ohio State’s Hunter Armstrong moved up to 12th all-time in the country for fifth in 53.28.

This race was projected to be Murphy’s to lose as the defending Olympic champion and world record holder, with Casas a favorite to steal the second spot from Grevers.

Ress was also in the mix after going 53.00 earlier this year, but now, with Mefford’s swim, coupled with the performance from Armstrong, the race for second is much more wide open.

For what it’s worth, Murphy appears to have a lot left in the tank, almost even-splitting his swim: 26.30/26.78. No one else in the field came home sub-27.

In the 2020-21 world rankings, Mefford now sits eighth, and first among Americans. Of course, that is subject to change come the semi-finals.

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1 month ago

Bryce!!! What a swim!

Same Same
Reply to  dude
1 month ago

Anyone else notice Casas’ reaction to not winning that heat? Kinda motioned at the scoreboard like it must be wrong. Weird.

1 month ago

wow 2 through 4 were all within .01 seconds of each other

1 month ago

Murphy was also 26.7 coming home when he set his world record.

1 month ago

woah did not see murphy almost even split that 100 back. I’m psyched now

1 month ago

Didnt Dean scratch the 200 free for this? Where did he end up?

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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