In our new series, Roadmaps – Mapping the Journey of US Swimming Stars, we will explore how modern-day Olympians climbed their way to the top, starting from as early as 8 years old all the way to their elite level today.
The US men have won 6 consecutive Olympic gold medals in the men’s 100-meter back, a streak that dates back to 1996. This long-standing excellence consistently repeats itself every four years, with a new veteran/rising star duo qualifying every U.S. Trials meet. Find out more about how this backstroke tradition is carried throughout the years in this Roadmaps installment.
2017-2020 Olympic Quad: US Men’s 100 BK LCM
|1||Ryan Murphy||51.94||2018 Pan Pacific Championships|
|2||Matt Grevers||52.26||2017 World Championships|
|3||Shaine Casas||52.72||2019 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|4||Justin Ress||53.26||2018 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|5||Michael Andrew||53.40||2019 Sette Colli Trophy|
|5||Jacob Pebley||53.40||2019 FINA Champions Series – Indy|
|7||Daniel Carr||53.50||2019 Pan American Games|
|8||Bryce Mefford||53.84||2018 Summer U.S. Nationals|
Your top 2 swimmers are both Olympic gold medalists in the 100-meter back, Ryan Murphy (2016) and Matt Grevers (2012). Breaking out over this past summer are NCAA powerhouse Shaine Casas (52.72) and World Universiade champion Justin Ress (53.26). Versatile star Michael Andrew (53.40) also cracks the top 5 performers this Olympic quad.
Age Group Phenoms
Michael Andrew, Ryan Murphy, Shaine Casas, and Justin Ress swam the 100-yard back at 8 years old, with Murphy and Andrew already swimming under 1:15. Andrew and Murphy went on to swim 1:06s once they entered the 9-10 age group.
In the 10 & under age group, Andrew and Murphy were already swimming under 30 seconds in the 50-yard back. Andrew, Murphy, Ress, Casas, Jacob Pebley, Daniel Carr, and Bryce Mefford also were under 31 seconds in the 50-yard back while in the 11-12 age group. Notably, Andrew was at 25.50 while Murphy was at 26.06, both before turning 13.
Men’s 50 BK: Age Group Times
Hitting Competitive Backstroke Marks
Ryan Murphy only continued to excel after finding his natural backstroke talent. At 11 years old, he had already broken the 1:00-barrier in the 100-yard back. Two years later at 13, Murphy then went sub-1:00 in the long course pool for the first time. He leveled up as a 16-year-old when he swam then-lifetime bests of 46.72 (SCY) and 53.76 (LCM), immediately making himself a senior-level competitor.
Michael Andrew (11) and Jacob Pebley (12) also went sub-1:00 in the short pool before turning 13. While the USA Swimming database did not show times for Matt Grevers before 2000, his age 14 best time in the 100-yard back was 51.85.
While Murphy was just a high school sophomore when hit sub-47 SCY and sub-54 LCM, the rest of the group was college-age (18-23) when hitting those competitive marks.
Men’s 100 BK: Competitive Barriers
|Name||Sub-1:00 SCY||Sub-47 SCY||
Fighting for Relay Spots & Medals
The 50 back in the 200 medley relay can be one of the most competitive relay spots to fight for and to lead off. While in high school, Ryan Murphy (21.09), Shaine Casas (21.46), and Michael Andrew (21.60) were all sub-22 in the 50-yard back. Fast forward into college, Murphy (20.20), Bryce Mefford (20.62), and Casas (20.84) all went sub-21 while Mefford (21.43), Matt Grevers (21.46), Andrew (21.52), Justin Ress (21.68), and Jacob Pebley (21.99) cracked 22 seconds.
Men’s 50 BK SCY: 13&Over Times
American Men’s Backstroke Excellence: Who Will Pass the Torch?
In the NCAA, Cal’s Ryan Murphy reigned in the 100-yard back from 2014-2017. Nine years earlier from 2005-2007, it was Northwestern’s Matt Grevers who was king of the 100 back. The rest of the group, with the exception of Michael Andrew, did not/have yet to earn NCAA titles in the 100-yard back.
However, stepping up to the Olympic level means including training for the 100-meter back in the long course pool. Putting the top 8 men this Olympic quad next to the 100 back Olympians since 2000 (Krayzelburg, Walker, Peirsol, Grevers, Thoman, Plummer, Murphy), the entire group is under 54 seconds, all faster than Lenny Krazyelburg‘s 2000 world record (53.87).
The only 3 US swimmers to break 53 seconds, a mark that was established in 2008 by Aaron Peirsol, this quad are 2016 Olympic champion Ryan Murphy (51.85), 2012 Olympic champion Matt Grevers (52.26), and 2019 U.S. National champion Shaine Casas (52.72).
For this 2019-2020 season, Murphy remains the only American under 53 seconds at 52.79 from PSS Des Moines in March, ranking 2nd in the world behind Japan’s Ryosuke Irie (52.59). Filing behind World #3 Xu Xiayu (52.97) are Americans Casas (53.14), Grevers (53.54), and double 2019 Pan American BK champion Daniel Carr (53.64). The next fastest American this season is Justin Ress at 53.99, which ranks 17th in the world.
Comparison- Top 8 US Men (2017-2020) V. 100 BK Olympians Since 2000
|1||Ryan Murphy (2016 finals)||51.85r|
|2||Ryan Murphy (2018)||51.94|
|3||Matt Grevers (2012 finals)||52.16|
|4||Matt Grevers (2017)||52.26|
|5||David Plummer (2016 finals)||52.40|
|6||Aaron Peirsol (2008 finals)||52.54|
|8||Nick Thoman (2012 finals)||52.92|
|14||Lenny Krayzelburg (2000 finals)||53.87r|
|15||Neil Walker (2000 prelims)||55.10r|
Men’s 100 BK LCM: Progression By Stage
Men’s 100 BK SCY: Lifetime Bests
Single Age Progression: Men’s 100 BK LCM (Ages 8-27)
Single Age Progression: Men’s 100 BK SCY (Ages 8-28)
More from the Roadmaps Series:
Up next for the Roadmaps series will be the women’s 100 back, featuring Regan Smith, Kathleen Baker, and Olivia Smoliga.