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A record-setting night leads to Texas’ 13th national championship

By Jared McMurry

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS – “Records are made to be broken.”

That’s what Texas coach Eddie Reese said during the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships this weekend. And he would know. Reese guided the Longhorns to a third straight title and record 13th championship.

On Saturday night, the final night of competition at the Indiana University Natatorium, the Longhorns broke four NCAA and American records. In the process they put second-place California well in their rearview mirror with a final tally of 542-319.

But in Reese’s view, the team title still wasn’t as significant as the performance of seniors Will Licon, Jack Conger and Clark Smith.

“We don’t ever come here to win,” Reese said. “I have three seniors who set new American records. So those are seniors who got better, and that’s the name of the game.”

Reese said that winning races is good, but swimming fast is where it is.

Texas did both. The Longhorns tied their national record by winning 11 events, but the remarkable achievements of the Longhorns weren’t the only memorable moments of the evening.  

In all, 59 records were broken throughout the NCAA Championships.

Continue reading A record-setting night leads to Texas’ 13th national championship

Purdue’s Johnson grateful for career achievement, looks ahead to life change

By Rebecca Harris

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — Steele Johnson had the meet of his life and was rewarded with Diver of the Meet honors on the last day of competition after placing second in the platform event with 506.5 points.

He will also bring home two championship titles to Purdue for the 1-meter and 3-meter, which contributed to Purdue’s best finish in 55 years, 106.5 team points, for a 13th-place finish.

While Johnson hoped to sweep all three events, he was happy with second, especially as he took four months off after the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro to readjust, a common theme by NCAA athletes who have returned to post-Olympic life.

“It’s exciting for me to be a part of this team,” Johnson said. “Everyone did well in their own ways, whether that meant gold or winning a consolation final. Tonight, success for me meant silver.”

Continue reading Purdue’s Johnson grateful for career achievement, looks ahead to life change

California’s Murphy completes a backstroke sweep

By Ryan Gregory

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — The last day of the Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships will never be forgotten for California senior Ryan Murphy. His collegiate career ended with a record-tying eight NCAA championships.

Murphy came from behind to defeat John Shebat of Texas to win the 200 backstroke with a time of 1:36.75. Murphy became the fourth swimmer in NCAA history to finish first in four years in each of two distances of a specific stroke, joining John Naber, Pablo Morales and Brendan Hansen.

His first victory came on Friday in the 100 backstroke. There, his 43.99 second swim fell short of breaking his record time of 43.49 he set last year, but was enough to defeat Shebat.

On Saturday, Murphy was back in his element again, this time in the 200 backstroke. This one was a bit worrisome for Murphy. With a perfect record in the backstroke hanging in the balance, Shebat jumped out to an early lead. Unfazed by the stout competition, Murphy swam the final 50 yards in 24.74 seconds to touch the wall first.

His decorated career earned him a chorus of cheers and a standing ovation as he stood atop the podium for the backstroke for the final time as a collegiate swimmer.

“It’s a testament to my coaching throughout my whole life,” Murphy said. “I improved a lot in college and that’s something I’m really proud of. College swimming is in a good spot. It’s definitely in a better place now than when I came into the NCAA and I’d like to think that I had a part in that.”

After winning three gold medals at the Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro, Murphy is primed to make waves in the swimming world. “Next week I start that transition,” Murphy said. “I have some meetings with some agents. I’m definitely very motivated after this meet. I have little, minor details that I need to improve over the next three months before world trials.”

Purdue’s Johnson aiming to sweep diving competition

By Rebecca Harris

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — Steele Johnson of Purdue will attempt to become the first diver in NCAA history to sweep three championships in one year when he competes in the platform diving event at the Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships on Saturday night.

Johnson won his second event of the 2017 championships Friday night with a score of 502.20 in 3-meter diving.

He finished well ahead of second-place finisher Briadam Herrera of Miami, who ended with 477.30 points. Third place went to Juan Hernandez of LSU, with 464.35 points.

Johnson joined Olympic teammate David Boudia as the only divers to have won all three diving championships during their career.

Unlike Thursday night, when Johnson was the second seed before winning the 1-meter finals, the 3-meter preliminaries gave him more trouble. The redshirt sophomore was seeded seventh after prelims, barely earning a spot in the championship round.

However, he came out strong in the finals. He positioned himself near the top of the leaderboard in a tie for third after the first dive. The second dive brought him to second place. His third earned a massive 91.8 points and put him in first, where he stayed for the remainder of the competition. That wasn’t even his best dive of the night. Johnson earned 94.5 points on his fifth dive.

Johnson took last year off to train for the Rio Olympics. In Rio, he earned a silver medal in the synchronized platform event with Boudia, a Purdue alum. Johnson previously earned NCAA titles in 1-meter and platform in 2015.

Cal’s Murphy seeks to complete backstroke history

By Jared McMurry

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Murphy has gotten used to this winning thing.

On Friday, the California senior achieved a special place in the history of the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships when he won the 100 backstroke final with an effort of 43.99 seconds at the Indiana University Natatorium.

Murphy became just the 14th swimmer in the history of NCAA Men’s Division I swimming to win four championships in a single event. On Saturday, Murphy could become the second competitor to achieve the feat in two separate events when he competes in the 200 back.

South Carolina’s John Naber won both the 100 and 200 back from 1974 through 1977. But Murphy, a two-time NCAA Swimmer of the Year who has won seven backstroke titles in seven attempts, is considered to be the best backstroke swimmer of all-time. If there were any doubters, Texas’ John Shebat silenced them quickly.

“Ryan Murphy is the greatest backstroker there ever is,” said Shebat, who finished second behind Murphy Friday night.

There are numbers outside of the seven individual NCAA national titles to support Murphy’s case to be considered not just one of the best backstroke swimmers of all time, but one of the best swimmers in history.

The 21-year-old won a gold medal at Rio in 2016 in the 100 and 200 back, as well as the 400 medley relay, while representing the United States.

Three gold medals, instant stardom, and the Golden Bear great still wasn’t ready to turn pro. In his eyes, his teammates at Cal needed him more.

“If I was worried about individual success, I would have gone pro after last summer,” he said.

When asked about how special his fourth title was, he directed his answer toward his team.

“I mean that was definitely a goal of mine,” Murphy said. “It was to win the event and try to get as many points for the team as possible.”

Murphy knows his college swimming career is coming to an end, and he’s trying to savor the final moments from what he considers the best stage of his already storied career.

“I’ve really enjoyed my four years of college swimming,” he said. “I was telling the guys in a team meeting early this week that the NCAA’s is the best meet in the world, Olympics included, just because of the energy that is brought every session.”

Future Olympic gold medals likely lie ahead for Murphy, but not before one last swim.

He will go for a fourth straight title Saturday in the 200 back, but more importantly for Murphy, he will try and give Cal a boost as they try and hunt down current leader Texas, for their first National Championship since 2012.