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Hunter Armstrong wins Pro Series 100m backstroke in nationals preview

Hunter Armstrong overcomes a slow start to put in the fastest 100-meter backstroke time in the world so far in 2023, winning the event at the TYR Pro Swim Series at Westmont.

Hunter Armstrong overtook Ryan Murphy in the 100m backstroke at a Pro Series swim meet on Friday in a preview of the national championships in two months.

Armstrong prevailed in 52.59 seconds, topping the 2016 Olympic champion Murphy by 31 hundredths.

The field included the top four men from last year’s world championships trials, all of them medalists in at least one backstroke event at last summer’s worlds.

SWIMMING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

The top two at this June’s nationals make the team for worlds, and the 6-foot-6 Armstrong is now the clear favorite. He has the world’s two best times this year, plus wins over training partner Murphy at each of the three Pro Series meets.

Armstrong, 22, came out of nowhere to make the Tokyo Olympic team after placing 13th at the March 2021 NCAA Championships. He then missed the Olympic 100m back final by one hundredth.

Then in 2022, Armstrong broke the 50m back world record and finished one hundredth behind Murphy in the 100m back final at worlds, taking bronze.

Murphy, 27, has been the leading U.S. backstroker for a decade and the top-finishing American in every 100m and 200m back over the last four major international meets dating to 2018.

Also Friday, Lilly King won the 200m breaststroke in 2:23.68, beating a field that included fellow Olympic breaststroke medalists Annie Lazor (third) and Lydia Jacoby (fifth).

Regan Smith and Léon Marchand each won two events. Smith took the 200m butterfly (2:07.92) and 100m back (57.90). Marchand claimed the 200m fly (1:55.58) and 200m breast (2:10.52).

The meet finishes Saturday with finals streaming on at 7 p.m. ET.

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