Season snapshots: Ryan Murphy excels at NCAA tournament, helps Cal men’s swim finish 2nd

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Editor’s Note: This piece is the fourth of a series looking back at the most important point of some teams’ 2014-15 season.

It is an absolute testament to the strength of Cal men’s swim and dive program that a second-place finish in the NCAA tournament in March is regarded as a letdown.

Led by dynamic sophomore backstroker Ryan Murphy, the Bears were the runners-up at the NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championship in Iowa City, Iowa, putting Bears aquatics in the national spotlight once again. The team, which was looking to add to its victories in three of the previous four NCAA titles, posted 399 points and came up short against swimming powerhouse Texas, which crushed the tournament with 528 points.

Murphy, who was named the 2015 College Swimming Coaches Association of America Swimmer of the Year, entered the meet as the second seed in the 100 back and the top seed in the 200 back. He once again exhibited his dominance in the ranks of collegiate aquatics with his victories in both events, with times of 44.21 and 1:36.77, respectively. These splits gave the young Bear NCAA titles in the events for the second consecutive year.

Murphy, senior Chuck Katis, freshman Justin Lynch and junior Tyler Messerschmidt won the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:22.74, shattering the American record that Cal set last year. This was the Bears’ second straight year winning the event at the NCAA tournament.

The 200 free relay team of Murphy, Messerschmidt and seniors Fabio Gimondi and Seth Stubblefield helped Cal grab second place with a time of 1:16.02. The same team also posted a 2:48.15 time in the 400 free relay, which helped Cal finish third. Murphy’s leadoff-split time of 44.17 broke Ryan Lochte’s NCAA record, and the Bears maintained their lead through the first two legs but fell behind Texas during the latter two legs as Joseph Schooling and Jack Conger overtook Cal.

Katis entered the tournament as the sixth seed in the 100 breast and the 16th seed in the 200 breast.  He ended up taking home two bronze medals in the events, as he posted a time of 1:50.54 in the 200 breast and 51.15 in the 100 breast.

Other strong performances included junior Josh Prenot’s victory in the 200 breast Consolation Final with 1:52.97, senior Adam Hinshaw taking fifth in the 200 fly finals with 1:42.22 and Messerschmidt grabbing eighth in the 100 free finals with 42.73. Prenot and Hinshaw placed fourth and eighth in the 400 individual medley finals with times of 3:41.42 and 3:42.88, respectively.

All in all, this year’s NCAA tournament marked yet another dominant showing by Cal men’s swim on the national stage under four-time NCAA Coach of the Year David Durden. This is truly a golden age of Cal aquatics, as the Bears have placed first or second in the NCAA tournament since 2010 and have won 22 straight dual meets since the 2012-13 season. Though they couldn’t add to their hardware from 2011, 2012 and 2014, the Bears’ sustained excellence gives Cal faithful much to look forward to in the coming years.

Shiktij Dave is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].