TSX BULLETIN: Murphy dominates in 200 m Back for third straight Trials win, Douglass and Smith also star (again) in Indianapolis

Three straight Olympic Trials Backstroke 100-200 m sweeps for Ryan Murphy! (Photo: World Aquatics)

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Only three finals on night six of the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Indianapolis, but all at 200 m, with veteran Ryan Murphy declaring he’s a threat for a lot more medals in Paris.

Now 28, Murphy, the Rio 2016 Olympic champion in both the 100 and 200 m Backstrokes, had to be the favorite in the final of the men’s 200, but were there more surprises from challengers like fellow Cal Bear Keaton Jones, who stunned everyone with the fastest semifinal time on Wednesday? Murphy’s answer was to leave no doubt, leading from the start and turning at 50 m with a 0.24 edge that only grew.

He turned at 100 m up 0.48 and at 150 m with a lead of 0.42 and then was second-fastest in the last 50 to touch in a world-leading 1:54.33. Meanwhile, Jones was battling with Virginia All-American Jack Aikins for the second spot, with Aikins barely ahead at the final turn. But Jones, who was 10th at the NCAAs for Cal in the 200-yard Back, had the fastest final 50 m and touched second in 1:54.61, no. 2 in 2024 and no. 14 all-time! Aikins is now no. 3 on the world list in 1:54.78, but it won’t get him on the plane to Paris.

How great is Murphy, now 28? He’s now won the 100 and 200 m Back events at three straight Olympic Trials and won medals in both events at both Rio and Tokyo. And he goes to Paris as the world leader in both. By the way, Jones moved ahead of Michael Phelps (1:54.65) on the all-time list as the no. 6 American ever.

Virginia’s 15-time NCAA champion Kate Douglass came into the women’s 200 m Breaststroke final having won the Worlds silver in the event in 2023 and 2024, and ranked no. 2 in the world this year. She didn’t quite reach her seasonal best (and American Record) of 2:19.30 from January, but led wire-to-wire and won in 2:19.46, the no. 9 performance in history and the no. 2 performance in U.S. history. She was on world-record pace into the third lap.

The battle for second was between 2022 World Champion Lilly King and Alex Walsh, the 2022 World 200 m Medley champion. King held second through 100 m, but Walsh took over on the third lap and had a big lead – 0.72 seconds – at the final turn. But King put on a patented surge – fastest in the field in the final 50 – and got to the wall for second in 2:21.93, a season’s best and now no. 5 on the 2024 world list. Walsh was close but had to settle for third in 2:22.38, now no. 6 in 2024.

Backstroke world-record-setter Regan Smith was the favorite in the women’s 200 m Butterfly final, coming in as no. 2 on the 2024 world list at 2:04.80. But she found herself trailing Carmel, Indiana teen Alex Shackell by 0.23 at the 150 m turn, then turned on the power and pushed ahead on the final lap to win going away, 2:05.90 to 2:06.69.

So Smith is on the team in another event and Shackell joins brother Aaron, who won the 400 m Freestyle, on the squad for Paris. Lindsay Looney was third in 2:07.03.

However, Smith was not done for the night. About 50 minutes later, she rolled to another impressive win, this time in the 200 m Backstroke semis. She dominated the second semi, winning easily in 2:06.41, a time only three others in the world have bettered in 2024. She won by 1.06 seconds over Claire Curzan (2:07.47), who is no. 3 on the year list.

The first semi was a showcase for Phoebe Bacon, the 2022 Worlds silver medalist in the 200 Back, and she was wire-to-wire to win in 2:07.23, a seasonal best by 0.01 and still no. 6 in the world. Open-water and medley star Katie Grimes was a solid second in 2:07.75 an the no. 4 qualifier overall. The final is Friday.

The men’s sprinters were back in the pool for the 50 m Freestyle semis, with 100 m Free winner Chris Guiliano still on fire and winning semi one in a lifetime best 21.59 (no. 5 in 2024), with Michael Andrew second in 21.83. But the second semi saw Tokyo Olympic champ Caeleb Dressel take another step forward and won in 21.61 (no. 6 in 2024) to 21.66 for 100 m Free runner-up Jack Alexy (no. 7) and 21.82 for Ryan Held.

Dressel swam only 22.00 for equal-seventh in the heats, but he appears ready to do something special in this race. The final is the lead-off event on Friday night.

Chase Kalisz, the 2017 World Champion in the men’s 200 m Medley, popped a seasonal best of 1:56.83 as the top qualifier in the men’s 200 m Medley semis, moving to no. 6 on the world list for 2024. He won by more than a second over Kieran Smith (1:57.94). The heat one winner was four-time Worlds medalist Shaine Casas in 1:57.87, close to his seasonal best and just ahead of two-time Worlds silver medalist in the event Carson Foster (1:57.96), who qualified fourth overall, but should have plenty in reserve.

Friday’s program includes the intriguing men’s 50 m Free final, the women’s 200 Back final (more Regan Smith) and the men’s 200 m Medley final.

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