Ryan Murphy Swims 53.16 100 Backstroke in Irvine (Club Excellence Challenge Men’s Roundup)

Ryan Murphy of United States of America reacts after competing in the Men's Backstroke 100m Final during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 25th, 2023.
Ryan Murphy -- Photo Courtesy: Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Ryan Murphy Swims 53.16 100 Backstroke in Irvine (Club Excellence Challenge Men’s Roundup)

Veteran backstroker Ryan Murphy continues to round into form as he approaches this summer’s Olympic Trials. The reigning world champion in the 100 back will try to put himself in position to reclaim the Olympic gold medal he previously won in 2016, and in his final in-season appearance, he clocked 53.16 to beat his closest competition by more than two seconds at the Southern California Invite in Irvine, Calif., part of this weekend’s ongoing USA Swimming Club Excellence Challenge.

Murphy improved slightly on his previous season-best time of 53.23, although he remains ranked No. 13 in the world. The only American to go faster this year is Hunter Armstrong, who clocked 52.68 to win gold at the sparsely-attended World Championships in February.

Also swimming in the 53-second range Saturday was Shaine Casas, the 2022 World Championships bronze medalist in the 200 back. At the Austin meet, Casas clocked 53.89 to comfortably beat another Texas-trained swimmer, Will Modglin (54.74). The Atlanta Classic 100 back went to Virginia swimmer Jack Aikins in a tight race with NC State’s Kacper Stokowski, 54.40 to 54.48, with Marcus Reyes-Gentry (54.66) and Grant Bochenski (54.91) also breaking 55.

Saturday’s other events included the 800 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, 200 IM and 50 freestyle.

Men’s 800 Freestyle

Florida’s Alfonso Mestre posted by far the quickest time of the evening as he won the Atlanta Classic in 7:52.15, more than 13.5 seconds clear of fellow Gators Aryan Nehra (8:05.74) and Lamar Taylor (8:08.13). Making a rare 800-meter appearance in Irvine was the versatile Gabriel Jett, who claimed the win in 8:04.79. Connor Fry had the top time in Austin (8:14.70).

In Atlanta, Mexico’s Jorge Iga used the 800 to get a 200-meter split. He did post the quickest 200-meter time of the entire weekend at 1:46.86, improving on his 1:46.93 prelims swim and 1:47.15 finals time from Friday.

Men’s 200 Breaststroke

The night’s quickest time belonged to Lyubomir Epitropov, a Bulgarian swimmer training at the University of Tennessee. Epitropov won in Atlanta in 2:10.23, ahead of the Virginia Tech duo of Miguel De Lara (2:12.09) and Carles Coll Marti (2:12.43). The night’s second-quickest mark was the 2:11.24 posted by Daniel Roy in Irvine.

A pair of American veterans went head-to-head in Austin, and Nic Fink emerged victorious by less than a quarter-second over Will Licon. Fink, the 2021 Olympic Trials winner in this event, clocked 2:11.51 while Licon, the third-place finisher at the last two Trials, went 2:11.77. Jake Foster was third in 2:12.55.

Men’s 200 IM

Nate Germonprez, coming off a strong freshman season for Texas, put up the win in the short medley in Austin in 2:00.16, followed by Rex Maurer’s clocking of 2:00.85. Patrick Groters won in Atlanta by three hundredths over Munzer Kabbara, 2:02.07 to 2:02.10, while Irvine was a similarly close finish, going to Campbell McKean over Noah Sech (2:03.25 to 2:03.29).

Men’s 50 Freestyle

Michael Andrew concluded a strong weekend with his third win in three tries in Irvine. He took out the 50 free by a half-second over his closest competition, with the 25-year-old veteran of one Olympics and three World Championships teams clocking 22.09, with Artem Selin (22.58) and Gregory Lichinsky (22.67) completing the placings.

Santiago Grassi put fourth a time of 22.33 in Atlanta to finish ahead of Lamar Taylor (22.45), David Curtiss (22.55) and Youssef Ramadan (22.56). Defending Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel clocked 22.62 in prelims but withdrew from the final. Camden Taylor swam a mark of 22.91 to win in Austin.

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