Former McAllen High and current Texas A&M rising senior swimmer Shaine Casas advanced to the finals of the 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympics Swimming Time Trials on Monday in Omaha, Nebraska.
The finals for the 100-meter backstroke will be held today and televised beginning at approximately 7 p.m. CST on NBC.
The top two finishers in each event will make the American Olympic team, with the top six likely to qualify in the 100- and 200-meter freestyles or to fill out relays.
Swimming in lane five, Casas finished second in his heat. He was .25 seconds ahead after the first 50 meters. Hunter Armstrong, however, gained some ground in the final 20 meters to touch the wall first. Three-time gold medalist and world record holder Ryan Murphy won his heat in 52.22 seconds, setting up what many prognosticators expect to be the first of two finals showdowns between Casas and Murphy, the other coming in the 200-meter backstroke.
Earlier in the day, Casas moved to the semis in the after he tied for the third best time overall in 53.08 seconds, equaling the time Murphy.
Leading the quarterfinals was Bryce Mefford with a time of 52.99, his all-time best by nearly one second, followed by Justin Ress at 53.07. Mefferd finished third in the second heat, behind Casas. Ress also advanced, taking second in the first heat. Six time Olympic medalist Matt Grevers took third in the first heat, completing the six swimmers who will compete for a shot on the U.S. Olympic team.
Casas and Murphy are projected by many swimming experts to capture the top two spots in both the 100- and 200-meter backstrokes and advance to the 2021 Tokyo Summer games.
“I was so impressed at the NCAAs to see how fast he gets into the turns,” said Jared Anderson, senior writer for SwimSwam.com, adding that he also expects Casas and Murphy to compete for the top two spots. “It’ll be interesting to see them compete and how Shaine paces the stuff. You have to be patient in NCAA races so that will help him, but it will be curious to see how they race because Murphy’s experienced here.”
“I don’t care if I win or not,” Casas said about the time trials last week. “I just want to be in the top two. I have to finish in the top two. Anything else is unacceptable.