U.S. Olympic Swim Trial Day 3: Andrew Seliskar and Ryan Murphy are Tokyo-bound!!

Coming up on Tuesday night - Ryan Murphy and Bryce Mefford in M. 100 Back; Isabelle Stadden in W. 100 Back; Andrew Seliskar in M. 200 Free

Today has all the making of the first of hopefully several big days for Cal Swimming at the U.S. Swim Trials this week.

Since I do update these posts with that day’s results (you can find in Day 2 Results all of the times and places for the numerous Cal Bears), I think the better format for my recap/preview of the next day is to highlight the interesting developing storylines.

Because I did not finish this post until a bit later, the fairly positive results from this Day 3 morning are also included below.

Ongoing Storylines:

Ryan Murphy is still the man to beat in backstroke, but could Bryce Mefford surprise the field?

Like I had mentioned in my preview, Ryan Murphy is as close to a “lock” as any of the Cal Bears at the Swim Trials this week to make the Olympic team. Murphy easily cruised to a 1st semifinal victory to post the top semifinal time.

Murph still owns the World Record of 51.85 in this event from the Rio 2016 Games. While there are several up-and-comers who may threaten this record this year, the best bet to break the record might still be the Cal Bears.

In the post-race interview with fellow Cal alum Michele Tafoya, Murphy said that his secret to drop time between the morning prelim and the evening semifinal was shaving. Obviously, that’s both a common strategy (though lesser swimmers probably shaved to peak at the prelim or semi to earn a spot in the final) and Murphy is always a jokester on these interviews.

Joining Murphy in the 100 Back final with the dream to also join him in Tokyo is recent Cal alum Bryce Mefford. Mefford got the top overall prelim time (even besting Murphy) with a 52.99 and drop that slightly to 52.87 to make the final. Mefford will likely need to be under 52.50 to beat a Shaine Casas or Justin Ress for the 2nd Olympic berth. Casas was the NCAA champ earlier this year in 100y Back and 200y Back, besting Cal’s Destin Lasco in both events.

Andrew Seliskar with his best shot to become an Olympian tonight

While the ideal situation would have been multiple Cal Bears in the Men’s 200 Free final, Andrew Seliskar nonetheless will hope to book a trip to Tokyo with a top-6 finish in this race as places 3-6 will make it as “relay only” swimmers for the 4x200 Free Relay. While the US Men is not as dominant in this event this year, partly due to the lack of one or two dominant swimmers (thus is life post-Michael Phelps), it is also a real possibility for a lot of guys, such as Seliskar, to qualify for this event with a top-2 finish tonight.

Seliskar will need to improve on his 7th overall finish (1:46.95) in the semifinals although the start list for Tuesday night final showed that Luca Urlando, who was just ahead of Seliskar, may have scratched this event!? I would think the winner of this event will post a time around 1:45. The World Record and the American Record are both in the 1:42 range.

Can Isabelle Stadden sustain Cal’s Olympic backstroke legacy?

Between Natalie Coughlin (2004, 2008), Missy Franklin (2012)*, Rachel Bootsma (2012), and Kathleen Baker (2016), Cal has had a representative in Team USA in Women’s 100 Back for the last 4 Olympic Games. Rising sophomore Isabelle Stadden is Cal’s only chance to prolong this streak.

*Technically, Missy Franklin had no affiliation with Cal until a year AFTER the 2012 Olympic Games. Rachel Bootmas was a Cal commit for that Olympics however, where she won a Gold via the 4x100 Medley relay during the summer before starting college.

In the same class as Stadden but opting to go to Stanford (though she also deferred matriculation this past year), Regan Smith has both broke Kathleen Baker’s record in this event at the 2019 World Championships and will likely win the top-spot. Stadden will need to improve from 4th to 2nd and best NC State’s Katharine Berkoff and former Georgia great Olivia Smoliga among others. Stadden has already set some personal records at this meet, she will need to set another one on Tuesday night and hope that may be fast enough to send her to Tokyo.

Cal trio of Kathleen Baker, Katie McLaughlin, and Amy Bilquist fall just a bit short…so far

The trio of Kathleen Baker, Katie McLaughlin, and Amy Bilquist will forever be linked as a part of one of the best recruiting classes in Cal women’s swimming history, on the heel of Missy Franklin’s successful collegiate stint in Berkeley. Technically Abbey Weitzeil is also a part of that class, but she matriculated a year later.

All three of this Cal trio fell short on Monday, but their Swim Trials are far from over. Baker, the only one of the three to have been an Olympian, not making the 100 Back final was the most surprising, but it also appeared that her recently injured right ankle/foot could be an issue (it certainly is one when she is out of the water). Baker did swim fast enough on Tuesday morning to make the evening’s 200 IM semifinal. Since turning pro early by foregoing her senior season, Baker has had some ups and downs as a pro swimmer. At her best, she’s certainly one of the best 100 Back and 200 IM swimmers in the world, but stronger competition means that she needs to be at her best this week.

Katie McLaughlin finished 5th in 100 Fly on Monday. However, given that the top-6 of 200 Free get to advance to Tokyo, she still has a decent shot of becoming a “Calympian”, particularly after posting the 6th best prelim time on Wednesday morning.

Amy Bilquist also fell short in the 100 Back semifinals, in that frustrating 9th place just one away from the final. Bilquist also has more chances in the always wild sprint events (100 Free and 50 Free) later this week. She has also been hampered by some recent injuries, unfortunately.

USA Women’s Swimming - Cal had the idols, Stanford is the present and future

Outside of Ryan Murphy, the NBC coverage of this swim meet mentions Cal legends as past idols for the next generation of stars (on the women’s side)…who are all opting to go to Stanford. Katie Ledecky continues to do her thing in the pool, making the Olympic team in 400 Free on Monday night, and also apparently performed her own graduation ceremony poolside in Omaha because Stanford’s graduation was also this week. Two other stars that have already emerged are 17-year old Stanford commit Torri Huske who won 100 Fly and deferred Stanford commit Regan Smith who dominated 100 Back. Huske said that her idol growing up was Cal alum Dana Vollmer. Smith, in her video package, mentioned another Cal alum Missy Franklin as her idol. While most of us Cal fans are not so petty to wish ill on these young American stars, I certainly would not feel too bad if both of them opt to turn professional and forgo swimming competitively at Stanford since there are still a lot of uncertainties concerning NCAA’s rule change on student-athlete benefiting off their image rights and this summer is a Golden opportunity for them to make some significant money.


Day 3 Schedule and Cal Bears to watch

Morning session 8 AM PT LIVESTREAM

Women’s 200 freestyle preliminaries

Qualified for semifinal (top-16)

6: Katie McLaughlin (1:58.63)

13: Abbey Weitzeil (1:59.53)

14: Isabel Ivey (1:59.60)

The rest

22: Ayla Spitz (2:00.65)

Men’s 200 butterfly preliminaries

Qualified for semifinal (top-16)

3: Trenton Julian (1:56.42)

13: Tom Shields (1:57.92)

The rest

18: Jason Louser (1:58.76)

22: Colby Mefford (2:00.12)

30: Dare Rose (2:00.23)

44: Gabrel Jett (2:02.61)

Women’s 200 individual medley preliminaries

Qualified for semifinal (top-16)

12: Kathleen Baker (2:13.89)

Women’s 1,500 freestyle preliminaries

Evening session 5 PM PT LIVESTREAM

Women’s 200 freestyle semifinal

Katie McLaughlin and Isabel Ivey (top-8 advances to Wednesday’s Final)

Abbey Weitzeil decided to scratch this event

Results:

3: Katie McLaughlin (1:57.37) Q

12: Isabel Ivey (1:59.31)

Men’s 200 freestyle final

Andrew Seliskar (top-6 get to go to Tokyo)

Results:

4: Andrew Seliskar (1:46.34) -> Seliskar is our first 2021 Tokyo USA Swimming Calympian!!!

Women’s 100 backstroke final

Isabelle Stadden (top-2 get to go to Tokyo)

Results:

5: Isabelle Stadden (59.37)

Men’s 100 backstroke final

Ryan Murphy and Bryce Mefford (top-2 get to go to Tokyo)

Results:

1: Ryan Murphy (52.33) -> Murphy is our second 2021 Tokyo USA Swimming Calympian!!!

4: Bryce Mefford (52.91)

Women’s 100 breaststroke final

Men’s 200 butterfly semifinal

Trenton Julian and Tom Shields (top-8 advances to Wednesday’s Final)

Results:

3: Trenton Julian (1:55.35) Q, a personal record

14: Tom Shields (1:58.73)

Women’s 200 individual medley semifinal

Kathleen Baker (top-8 advances to Wednesday’s Final)

Results:

11: Kathleen Baker (2:12.95)

GO BEARS!