Former McAllen High and current Texas A&M rising senior swimmer Shaine Casas barely missed qualifying for the 2021 Tokyo Summer Games after finishing third in an extremely tight 100-meter backstroke finals at the U.S. Olympics Swimming Time Trials on Tuesday in Omaha, Nebraska.
The top two finishers in each event more than likely make the American Olympic team — it’s extremely rare for second place to not advance, with the top six likely to qualify in the 100- and 200-meter freestyles or to fill out relays.
Casas started in lane three with three-time Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder in the event, Ryan Murphy, next to him in lane four. Casas led Murphy by .07 seconds at the turn. Murphy however finished in 52.33 seconds to defend his 2016 title, followed by a surprising Hunter Armstrong, of Ohio State, who swam a personal best in the semis, in 52.48. Casas captured third in 53.76 seconds.
Jared Anderson, senior writer for SwimSwam.com told The Monitor that Casas could actually pull off an upset and beat Murphy, if not in the 100 back, then maybe in the 200 back. He challenged some of Murphy’s record times throughout the season.
Casas advanced to Tuesday’s finals after finishing second in his semifinals heat Monday night with a time of 52.77 seconds. He was .25 seconds ahead after the first 50 meters. Armstrong, however, gained some ground in the final 20 meters to touch the wall ahead of him in 52.67.
Murphy won his semifinal heat in 52.22 seconds Monday, setting up Tuesday what many prognosticators expected to be the first of two finals showdowns between Casas and Murphy, the other coming in the 200-meter backstroke, which will take place Thursday with the quarterfinals in the morning and the semifinals in the evening, starting at 7 p.m. on NBC.
Casas and Murphy were 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. In each of the past three Olympics, the third-place finisher in the time trials, had a time good enough to win the Olympics that year. The U.S. men have won gold in the event in each of the last six Olympics.