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.