This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Rio de Janeiro • Ryan Murphy is just another name in a news release, reporting the results of a swimming meet between California and the University of Utah last October in Berkeley.
The Cal athlete is credited with "dominant wins" over the Utah swimmers in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly. The Utes in those races should feel better about themselves now, after Murphy won three gold medals in the 2016 Olympics.
Next year, the Utah women's swimmers will be competing against Stanford freshman Katie Ledecky, a winner of four gold medals and one silver medal in Rio.
That's life in the Pac-12 Conference in Olympic sports.
"What an incredible experience it is to coach in this league, against the best of the best," said Utah's Joe Dykstra. "If you win a Pac-12 title, you're one of world's best swimmers."
That description applies to other sports, notably track and field. "In our case, it's some of the best you'll ever see," said Ute women's coach Kyle Kepler.
As of Thursday afternoon, Pac-12 athletes and alumni had claimed 41 medals (17 gold) in these Games. If the conference were its own country, it would be tied with Russia for fourth place in the medal count and assured of another top-five finish while making a major contribution to the USA's success in Rio.
The conference earned 45 medals in London in 2012 and is likely to top that total by Sunday, with potential help from former Ute basketball star Andrew Bogut, who's playing for Australia in Friday's semifinals vs. Serbia. Bogut and Australian teammates Aron Baynes and Brock Motum of Washington State are among more than 200 athletes and alumni representing every Pac-12 school in Rio, competing for 29 countries in 18 sports.
USA gymnast Madison Kocian will enroll at UCLA after winning a gold medal in the team competition and a silver in the individual bars event as a member of the "Final Five." Kocian and 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross (of the "Fierce Five") will compete against Utah freshman MyKayla Skinner, who came to Rio as the American team's No. 1 alternate.
Pac-12 affiliates are thriving in water polo and men's basketball and even have earned an equestrian medal. Oregon product Brianne Theisen-Eaton won a bronze medal for Canada in the heptathlon and her husband, Ashton Eaton, won his second consecutive Olympic gold in the decathlon for the USA. Sprinter Allyson Felix, from USC, became the most decorated American women's track athlete with her seventh medal.
Oregon's Devon Allen finished fifth in the 110-meter hurdles, missing a medal, but that was a remarkable performance for an active Pac-12 football player. As a receiver for the Ducks, Allen has caught four passes for 82 yards in two games against Utah.
Surrounded by athletes such as Allen in the annual Pac-12 meet, Kepler is so much of a track and field fan that he has to remind himself to "make sure you're coaching, versus just watching everything," he said.
Kepler's program (and BYU's) have contributed to Olympians' success in 2016, including Evan Jager's silver medal showing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Athletes from the Nike Oregon Project and the Bowerman Track Club have lived in Park City and run on the Utah and BYU tracks for high-altitude training. They're "humble and very appreciative about using our facility," said Kepler, who personally worked with top-10 women's marathon finishers Shalane Flanagan and Amy Hastings Cragg one day before their coaches arrived from Oregon.
Swimming is the Pac-12's flagship Olympic sport, though. Brighton High School graduate Long Gutierrez, who swims for Cal, competed for Mexico in Rio. He witnessed the performances of five other California swimmers, including Murphy, in a convergence he described as "super cool." Cal's current and former men's swimmers won 11 medals.
The list of nine women in all sports with four or more medals in Rio includes four Pac-12 swimmers of the past, present or future Stanford's Simone Manuel, Maya DiRado and Ledecky of the USA and USC's Katinka Hozzsu of Hungary.
"Just being in the Pac-12 Conference helped me to be faster," Manuel said.
Olympic star Michael Phelps will serve as an Arizona State volunteer assistant coach, working with Bob Bowman, and Ledecky is eager to become a Stanford student-athlete. Cardinal coach Greg Meehan is "very creative," Ledecky said, "and I think we'll be able to figure out ways to continue to have that training environment in a place that I'll be pushed in practice."
In the Pac-12, even an Olympic champion can encounter intrasquad competition.
Notable Pac-12 performers
Katie Ledecky, incoming Stanford freshman • Four gold medals, one silver in swimming.
Katinka Hozzsu, former USC swimmer from Hungary • Three gold medals, one silver.
Simone Manuel, Stanford junior • Two gold medals, two silver; swam anchor leg in medley relay as USA claimed its 1,000th gold medal in the Summer Games.
Maya DiRado, Stanford graduate • Two gold medals, one silver, one bronze in swimming.
Ryan Murphy, California senior • Three gold medals in swimming.
Allyson Felix, former USC athlete • Seventh career medal in track and field.
Madison Kocian, incoming UCLA freshman • Gold medal in team gymnastics, individual silver in bars event.
Andrew Bogut, former Utah basketball player • Seeking Australia's first medal in men's basketball.
Pac-12 in the medals chase
If it were a nation, the Pac-12 would be tied for fourth in the medals chase, as of Thursday afternoon.
Nation G S B Tot
United States 31 32 31 94
Britain 21 21 13 55
China 19 15 21 55
Russia 12 14 15 41
Pac-12 17 12 12 41
Japan 11 5 18 34
France 8 11 13 32
Germany 13 8 10 31
Australia 7 9 10 26
Italy 8 9 6 23