Feb. 21, 2012
The following article is part of a series covering the 2012 Patriot League Swimming and Diving Championships. The content was produced by journalism students from the University of Maryland.
By Josh Vitale
Annapolis, Md. - There was only one thing on Navy swimmer Sean Murphy's mind when he emerged from the pool after completing his preliminary trial Friday morning.
It wasn't the fans that filled Navy's Lejeune Hall to its rafters to see the 2012 Patriot League Swimming & Diving Championships. It wasn't the hoards of swimmers surrounding the pool, serenading the competitors with chants, cheers and encouragement. It wasn't even on the other seven swimmers in the pool and how he stacked up against them.
The only thing Murphy thought about was whether he had beat Ian Johnston's 15-year-old Naval Academy record for the 100-yard breaststroke.
"The oldest record on the Navy record board is breaststroke," said Murphy, a Hudson, Ohio native. "I want to get it."
Murphy fell short of topping Johnston's mark, but the sophomore's career-best time of 55.32 seconds moved him to second place in the Midshipmen's all-time record books and seeded him No. 1 overall in Friday night's finals.
"It was long and smooth, and it felt great," Murphy said. "But there's a couple things I know I can improve on, so I'll focus on those in the night and hopefully that'll drop the 0.3 [seconds] that I want to drop."
Murphy wasn't the only Midshipmen making noise in Friday's 100 yard breaststroke preliminaries. Sophomore Luke Hoffer, who previously held second-place in Navy's record books, also set a career-best, moving to the finals seeded second after posting a time of 55.47 seconds.
"This morning I felt pretty good," Hoffer said. "I was ready when I got off the blocks. My heart, my blood was already pumping, so I didn't have to worry about warming up during my race."
While both swimmers displayed optimism heading into the night session, Navy coach Bill Roberts was reserved about their title-chances.
Having watched his pupils set their personal-best times in the preliminary heats, Roberts feared they might not be able to replicate their morning success when the finals rounds begin.
"We see it all the time ... The brain can get in the way sometimes," Roberts said. "The trick is to think about what you got to do, but not over think it too much."
The sophomore duo didn't share its coach's fears. Both said their preliminary times increased their drive to improve heading into the night session, rather than create expectations too lofty to meet.
"The past few years I haven't let myself down, so I'm hoping to drop a little time," Murphy said. "I still have a lot left for tonight."
"Every chance you step up on the blocks is a chance to improve upon what you've done," Hoffer said. "If we have faith in our training, we can do better than we've done before."
Another sophomore, Ben Grove, will join Murphy and Hoffer in Friday's finals, making Navy and their talented underclassmen the presumptive favorites to keep the Patriot League individual breast stroke title in Annapolis this year.
"We're spoiled. Two years ago, when we recruited this class, we were really happy and just got lucky with the quality of breaststroke in that one single class," Roberts said. "We expect to win, and we're expecting some good times."
And with plenty of firepower helping push the Midshipmen toward another title, Murphy is free to focus on getting that record he has his eyes on.
"I expect us to finish one, two, three," Murphy said. "And I want to get first."
Update: Murphy won the 100-yard breaststroke finals with a time of 55.70, with Hoffer placing third in 56.07 and Grove tied for fourth in 56.69.