Cal's Murphy Changes Race Strategy for 200 Back



At the Austin Arena Pro Meet, fans saw National Team member Ryan Murphy struggle to get his grip at the starting blocks. He explains what was happening, and if it affected him.


Ryan Murphy Audio

By Bob Schaller//Correspondent

At this point of the quadrennial, when the run-up to Rio has more than just started but is not yet a sprint, Ryan Murphy wanted to see what he had in the 200 backstroke. He had more than enough.


Like a lot of others, he’s at a “tired” point in the training arc that is unfolding gradually as they work toward Olympic Trials. Back from a team camp in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center just before the Arena Pro Swim Series in Austin last weekend. So was he rested at all?

“No,’’ he said with a smile. “I mean, I am pretty tired. Typically I am pretty good coming off altitude, but I was tired coming into this meet. So I wasn’t expecting that.”

Murphy, a junior at Cal, went 1:55.99 to win the 200 back, and he felt pretty good about his effort, technique -- and of course, the result.

The 200 was a dominating performance, and it shows that he and Coach Dave Durden’s changes are paying off. 

“We’ve definitely been working on 200 pace,” Murphy said, “so I thought my 200 would be pretty decent.”

A beaming Durden actually came over to the media area to share a handshake with Murphy, and they both knew something special had happened that, if unexpected, certainly bore out the data and thinking behind the changes. 

“I made some tweaks with my stroke that have been paying off pretty well,” Murphy said. “Luckily, I was able to put that into action this race.”

Murphy’s smile back to Durden was all the response his coach needed.

“That’s my best (in season),” he said, nodding at the 1:55.99 that won the 200 back. “I think my second best was (1):56.9 from this meet last year.”

But in the 200, Murphy did something hard to do in the grueling event, leading from start to finish after grappling with an unfamiliar starting wedge that appeared to be a concern until the gun went off, but was not an issue once he hit the water.

“Tonight, I wanted to take it out a little faster,” Murphy said. “I wanted to do my last three 50s under 30 and descend them. And tonight I wanted to take it out a little faster and kind of press that second 50 a little more. I wasn’t thinking about any records or anything like that.”

Murphy was also solid in the 100 back, taking second in a star-studded field that included Olympian Matt Grevers, who won the 100.

Having National Teamer and Cal teammate Jacob Pebley, who was the Pac 12 Swimmer of the Month for December, come in third, also boosted Murphy.

““Jacob pushes me every day in practice,” Murphy said. “He’s a great training partner, great competitor when it comes to racing, too