International Swimming League Postseason to Begin This Weekend: What to Expect?

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Melanie Margalis and Kelsey Wog will be leading the Cali Condors into DC this weekend. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

After a brief rest period, the International Swimming League will pick back up this weekend in College Park, Maryland as the four American-based teams (Cali Condors, Los Angeles Current, DC Trident, and New York Breakers) vie for spots in the final match set to take place in December in Las Vegas.

This has been the inaugural season of the generational league, which has allowed the best swimmers in the world to compete against each other more often around the world and get a chance to earn real prize money: swimmers can earn $300 per point for each individual swim. About $180,000 in prize money will be awarded at each regular season match, with nearly $1.5 million in prize money available for December’s championship meet in Las Vegas. Men and women will share equal prize money.

This weekend will have more on the line, contrary to the first four meets which were just “regular season” meets. As previously mentioned, a trip to Las Vegas and the first ever ISL final is at stake, with the Condors (6 points) leading the Current (5 points), the Trident (4 points) and the Breakers (2 points). Points were assigned at the earlier ISL matches where the Condors and Trident competed in the first two (Group A) meets in Indianapolis and Naples, placing second and third, respectively, behind Energy Standard in both meets. The Current and Breakers competed in the second two (Group B) meets in Texas and Budapest and finished in second and fourth, respectively, in both.

The meet will be held November 16-17 in College Park, Maryland, not far from downtown Washington DC.

Where to watch by region

  • United States: ESPN3
  • Europe and Asia-Pacific: Eurosport
  • Australia: 7plus
  • New Zealand: Spark
  • Canada: CBC
  • Latin America: Claro Sport
  • Brazil: TV GloboKevin Reust
  • Caribbean: FlowSports
  • Israel: Sports 1
  • Middle East/North Africa: Bein Sport

When to watch by region

  • Local College Park time – 2:00 p.m.
  • New York, NY (Eastern) – 2:00 p.m.
  • Los Angeles, Ca. (Pacific) – 11:00 a.m.
  • London, ENG – 7:00 p.m.
  • Tokyo, JPN – 4:00 a.m. (next day)
  • Sydney, AUS – 6:00 a.m. (next day)

American Short Course Championships?

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Jay Litherland of the DC Trident; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

With 53% of the swimmers on the US-based rosters American, the DC derby this weekend will be similar to what a US Nationals might look like in short course meters, which will be exciting for the hardcore swimming fans who have been deprived of what the best American swimmers have been able to do had they raced short course meters more often.

A number of the American swimmers that Swimming World interviewed before the meet raved about how much they were looking forward to short course meters, including Ella Eastin (Current) and Breeja Larson (Breakers). Two American records have already fallen this season from Melanie Margalis (Current) and Katie Ledecky in the 200 IM and 400 freestyle, respectively, and USA Swimming has already confirmed it will officially count American records set during International Swimming League meets.

World records are a different story and they will be discussed later. But this weekend will be beneficial for the US teams since most of them are already familiar with competing against one another. And the swimmers that aren’t American, a large number of them have competed in the NCAA or currently train in the US, so this weekend’s meet seems to be an extra stacked TYR Pro Swim Series — with more on the line of course.

The familiarity of the environment and of the competition should be beneficial to the swimmers and expect this meet’s winning times to be quicker than the four meets thus far.

International Swimming League’s First Ever Postseason: World Record Watch?

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Is a world record possible from Lilly King? Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The International Swimming League has put on four successful meets and now we officially enter the postseason — the first of its kind. How will the swimmers treat this weekend? Will they be rested? Will the times be quicker? Most of the winning times across the first four meets have been fairly similar in each event, with racing taking priority over times.

Of course that was this league’s foundation: that times did not matter and racing was the most important, with the league going as far as to not post results during meets and leaving a lot of hardcore swimming fans in the dark on what each swim means. In the long run, times in the ISL don’t matter, meaning that a world record in an International Swimming League meet won’t give you a pay increase or any extra points for your team, which is probably why the league doesn’t feel it as important to flash the results graphic after each swim for the TV audience. But fans of the sport still want to see what kind of times are being thrown down at each meet, even if records are not abundant.

FINA has stated it will only ratify world records set in ISL meets that are not held during the same weekend as FINA-approved meets. Only one world record has fallen this season from Minna Atherton of Australia and the London Roar, and it came during a weekend with no other FINA meets. That swim was FINA approved, avoiding any controversy of a non-ratified world record by the sport’s governing body.

Are more world records under threat this weekend? Katie Ledecky (DC Trident) and Caeleb Dressel (Cali Condors) would probably be the most likely answer for that question. Except Ledecky will not be racing in Maryland this weekend, spoiling what would have been a homecoming for her since she grew up in nearby Bethesda.

Lilly King and Ariarne Titmus have set world records in their careers and if they show up to DC in prime racing condition, then a world record from either could be possible. But with the impending Olympic Trials in seven months and the Las Vegas final coming up in another month, don’t expect anyone to be fully rested. So for now, Dressel is the best chance.

The former Florida Gator and reigning swimmer of the meet at the 2019 World Championships did not swim at the Indianapolis meet but made an immediate impact at the second stop in Naples, helping push Energy Standard to the brink as the meet came down to the Skins races at the end of the weekend, with Energy Standard squeezing out a victory.

Dressel currently has the fastest time of any of the American teams in four individual events at the ISL — 50 & 100 free, 50 & 100 fly — the four events he won gold medals in at the World Championships this summer.

But is a world record from Dressel likely? We might have to wait until Vegas to see that but Dressel was within five tenths of the world record in the 50 free, eight tenths in the 100 free, and six tenths in the 50 fly. Maybe there’s a chance? Every time Dressel dives into the pool, fans take notice and this weekend will be no exception to see what he is capable of doing.

We will see this weekend how the coaches will approach this round of the Derbies in terms of rest. The Condors and Current are likely strong enough to wait for a full rest until Vegas right before Christmas but a little shave down might not be out of the question. After all, the Derbies will be comparable to the conference championships in an NCAA season so the coaching staffs on three of the four teams have that experience of swimming in a big meet a month before the big show. Notably, Dressel broke two American records at the 2018 SECs a month before he tore apart the record books at the NCAAs for his swan-song in amateur swimming, so he is familiar with this format.

Sprinters have shown to be extremely valuable in the ISL line-up with no races longer than 400, no 4×200 free relay, and 50 Skins races being worth up to triple the amount of points in an individual race. The Condors should have no trouble in getting to Vegas and Dressel is a big part of that.

Happy Homecoming

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Andrew Wilson, a DC native, will be swimming in familiar waters in Maryland this weekend in the International Swimming League; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

There will be a handful of swimmers from the DC-metro and surrounding areas that will be swimming in Maryland this weekend as a homecoming of sorts. Among them: Jack Conger (Rockville, MD), Townley Haas (Richmond, VA), Chase Kalisz (Bel Air, MD), Andrew Seliskar (McLean, VA), John Shebat (Oak Hill, VA), Giles Smith (Baltimore, MD) and Andrew Wilson (Bethesda, MD).

Washington, DC has proven to be one of the US’ best swimming towns the last few years, housing Nation’s Capital Swim Club, the number one club in the United States according to the USA Swimming Club Excellence results last year. Three former NCAP swimmers (Seliskar, Shebat, Wilson) will be swimming in the ISL this weekend. DC doesn’t get to see some of the best swimming stars very often, so expect a great crowd in College Park on Saturday and Sunday.

International Swimming League’s Fastest Time in Each Event (American Teams)

*confirmed not competing

Men:

  • 50 Free: Caeleb Dressel, Condors, 20.64
  • 100 Free: Caeleb Dressel, Condors, 45.77
  • 200 Free: Clyde Lewis, Breakers, 1:42.50
  • 400 Free: Jack McLoughlin, Breakers, 3:39.41
  • 50 Back: Jeremy Stravius, Trident, 23.13
  • 100 Back: Ryan Murphy, Current, 49.78
  • 200 Back: Ryan Murphy, Current, 1:49.40
  • 50 Breast: Felipe Lima, Current, 26.16
  • 100 Breast: Felipe Lima, Current, 57.04
  • 200 Breast: Marco Koch, Breakers, 2:04.27
  • 50 Fly: Caeleb Dressel, Condors, 22.34
  • 100 Fly: Caeleb Dressel, Condors, 49.36
  • 200 Fly: Tom Shields, Current, 1:50.25
  • 200 IM: Mitch Larkin*, Condors, 1:52.93
  • 400 IM: Andrew Seliskar, Current, 4:03.28
  • 4×100 free: LA Current, (Nathan Adrian, Ryan Held, Blake Pieroni, Tom Shields) 3:07.35
  • 4×100 medley: LA Current, (Matt Grevers, Felipe Lima, Tom Shields, Ryan Held) 3:22.46

Women:

  • 50 Free: Beryl Gastaldello, Current, 23.81
  • 100 Free: Siobhan Haughey, Trident, 51.93
  • 200 Free: Siobhan Haughey, Trident, 1:52.01
  • 400 Free: Katie Ledecky*, Trident, 3:54.06
  • 50 Back: Beryl Gastaldello, Current, 26.13
  • 100 Back: Olivia Smoliga, Condors, 56.24
  • 200 Back: Kylie Masse, Condors, 2:01.89
  • 50 Breast: Lilly King, Condors, 29.12
  • 100 Breast: Breeja Larson, Breakers, 1:03.80
  • 200 Breast: Lilly King, Condors, 2:18.25
  • 50 Fly: Beryl Gastaldello, Current, 24.92
  • 100 Fly: Kelsi Dahlia, Current, 55.88
  • 200 Fly: Katie McLaughlin, Current, 2:05.41
  • 200 IM: Melanie Margalis, Condors, 2:04.18
  • 400 IM: Melanie Margalis, Condors, 4:24.95
  • 4×100 free: New York Breakers, (Lia Neal, Catie DeLoof, Pernille Blume, Madison Wilson) 3:29.53
  • 4×100 medley: Cali Condors, (Olivia Smoliga, Lilly King, Kelsi Dahlia, Natalie Hinds) 3:47.46

Mixed:

  • 4×100 free: LA Current (Michael Chadwick, Ryan Held, Margo Geer, Aly Tetzloff) 3:18.97

Who Will Go to Vegas?

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Zane Grothe will be hoping to push the DC Trident to compete in his hometown Las Vegas for the International Swimming League Grand Finale; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Overall #1 times: Current: 14; Condors: 12; Breakers: 5; Trident: 4

On paper, it looks to be the two California teams — Current and Condors — with the best rosters. Out of the 35 events, the Current have 14 top times and the Condors have 12, amassing 74% of the total events. The Breakers have strengths in a few areas with the Australian duo of Clyde Lewis and Jack McLoughlin stepping up in the 200 and 400 frees this season, taking advantage of the weakness that is the United States’ men’s middle distance freestyle. The Trident are strong in a few areas, with Siobhan Haughey likely to score a lot of points, as well as some clutch performances from Andreas Vazaios and Zane Grothe. With no Katie Ledecky, the Trident figure to be out of the running of a trip to Vegas, and the Breakers just do not have the depth to be able to compete with the Condors and the Current.

It’s most likely going to be the two California teams that will be the American representatives in Las Vegas, which was expected coming into the season. The Current are basically a conglomeration of the best swimmers training in California, with a majority of their swimmers coming from the west coast. The Condors are the opposite; their team is basically an SEC all-star team, with most of their swimmers coming from the southeast, with a few exceptions like Ariarne Titmus and Kylie Masse out of Australia and Canada.

In comparing the two teams, the Current have a stronger men’s team from top to bottom while the Condors have a stronger women’s team. Dressel will give the Condors a fighting chance and will keep them in the race, but without the presence of Aussie Mitch Larkin, who will not be in DC per confirmation from General Manager Jason Lezak, it will be a tall task and Dressel can’t do it all alone. The Current have the top times in both men’s relays and they might prove to be too much with the likes of Blake PieroniTom Shields and Nathan Adrian.

On the women’s side, Beryl Gastaldello, a former swimmer at Texas A&M, has come up big for the Current in the sprint races as she has the top time this season in three of the four 50’s. The Condors have become tough to beat in women’s backstroke with Olivia Smoliga and Kylie Masse leading the way in the 100 and 200. Add in reigning Olympic gold medalist Lilly King on breaststroke and the duo of Kelsi Dahlia and Hali Flickinger in butterfly and the Condors are stacked. The Condors have the top women’s medley relay this season while the Breakers have the top time in the free relay. The Condors have been good at evening out their relays to gain as many points from their second relay as possible, which will play a huge role in the point standings in the long run.

But the one uncertainty for the American teams is the Skins.

If it comes down to it, none of the US-based women have made the third round in any of the first four matches. In the last meet in Budapest, Pernille Blume (Breakers) and Gastaldello (Current) made the second round. In Dallas a week before, only Margo Geer (Current) made it past round one. Olivia Smoliga (Condors) has made the second round twice and Siobhan Haughey (Trident) and Kasia Wasick (Condors) have made it once. But none of the women have successfully made it to the third round, so we really have no idea who is the favorite in that event. Out of the four that have made it to round 2, Smoliga (24.55) and Gastaldello (24.57) have the fastest second rounds with Blume closely following in 24.64.

The men have more Skins experience. Caeleb Dressel (Condors) and Nathan Adrian (Current) have made it to the third round once. Michael Andrew (Breakers) has made the second round twice and Robert Howard (Trident) has made it once. Dressel is already the overwhelming favorite, but he will need some help if the Condors are to come out as champions heading into Las Vegas. We have seen the meets decided in the Skins and there will be a lot of pressure in those events.

The Skins have proved to be the most fun part of the International Swimming League thus far with strategy playing a big role and seeing who can get out of the all-important second round to achieve the triple points in round three.

Prediction: The Current win the meet and advance to Las Vegas with the Condors in second.