ISL American Derby: L.A. Current Capture Team Honors; Caeleb Dressel Stars as MVP

Caeleb Dressel has been a key cog for the Cali Condors in ISL action. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

ISL American Derby – Day Two

The two American spots in the International Swimming League finale next month in Las Vegas are guaranteed, the L.A. Current and Cali Condors standing head and shoulders above their United States opposition, the D.C. Trident and New York Breakers. After holding their own with their European foes during the early stages of ISL competition, the Current and Condors proved themselves to be a cut above in stateside action.

After battling back and forth for much of the weekend, the Current emerged on top in the team race, largely behind the Skins victory from Beryl Gastaldello that yielded triple points for coach David Marsh’s squad. It also helped significantly that Michael Chadwick and Ryan Held advanced out of the first round of the men’s Skins, with Chadwick finishing in second place in the final, beaten by the MVP of the competition, Caeleb Dressel of the Condors.

Following the first day of the American Derby at the Eppley Recreation Center, on the campus of the University of Maryland, the Condors (234.5 points) and Current (234 points) were barely sep

L.A. Current

The L.A. Current walked away from the weekend with victory in the ISL American Derby.

arated in the team standings, with the Breakers (167.5 points) and Trident (165 points) a considerable margin behind. While the Condors relied on double individual victories from Dressel (100 butterfly/50 freestyle) and Lilly King (50 breaststroke/200 breaststroke), the Current received a pair of wins from Gastaldello (50 freestyle/50 backstroke) and balance throughout the lineup.

Gastaldello continued her superb showing on the second day of the meet and came through during the ultra-important Skins competition, which can alter the results in a hurry. Meanwhile, Dressel continued to put on a show for the fans, who will hear the University of Florida product’s name frequently in the Olympic year to come.

“We didn’t know the score,” Marsh said, referring to the start of the Skins races. “But we knew if we got two into the second round, that was a bonus. You can’t give up. We actually didn’t have a great session, but we didn’t give up.”

Dressel, who set an American record in the 50 butterfly, put up 61.5 points during the two-day meet to collect MVP honors, with Gastaldello finishing second in the MVP race behind her 51.5 points. The Current’s Tom Shields managed 39.5 points for third in the MVP hunt and the D.C. United’s Siobhan Haughey was fourth at 38 points.

“I would much rather get the team title than the individual,” Dressel said. “I guess you just saw me staring at the scoreboard. I don’t care about the times or the MVP stuff. The team title would have been really nice. But we will be better in the events to come in Vegas where we have another shot. That’s really the whole point of these first three meets, to qualify for Vegas so we will be better as a team, as a collective whole.”

The opening afternoon of the American Derby wasn’t short on speed and a pair of American records were broken as the D.C. Trident’s Ian Finnerty clocked 25.99 for the 50 breaststroke and Melanie Margalis covered the 400 individual medley in 4:24.46. Finnerty got into the record-breaking process again, this time setting a U.S. standard in the 100 breaststroke, thanks to a time of 56.29.

Next week, the ISL will shift its focus to London, where the European Derby will unfold between the London Roar, Energy Standard, Team Iron and the Aqua Centurions. The Roar and Energy Standard enter the European Derby with eight points each and bound for the championship meet in Vegas. There has already been discussion about expansion for the ISL, with two new teams added and a longer schedule implemented for the league’s second season.

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American Derby Team Standings

Team Standings at Second Break

L.A. Current – 495 points
Cali Condors – 489.5
D.C. Trident – 322.5
N.Y. Breakers – 315

MVP Standings

Caeleb Dressel – 61.5 points
Beryl Gastaldello – 51.5
Tom Shields – 39.5
Siobhan Haughey – 38

Men’s 50 Freestyle (Skins)

Behind a performance of 21.20, the New York Breakers’ Michael Andrew led the field into the semifinals, with the Cali Condors’ Caeleb Dressel also moving on to the next round. The L.A. Current advanced a pair of swimmers into the semifinals, as Michael Chadwick and Ryan Held were third and fourth, respectively.

Dressel & Chadwick

Caeleb Dressel, left, and Michael Chadwick prepare to race in the final of the Skins competition.

Proving that he held back in the first round of the Skins, Dressel increased the intensity to punch a ticket to the final, as the sprint star won in 21.39. Chadwick moved up from third in the opening round to grab the second position for the final race.

Dressel topped Chadwick in the final with a winning time of 21.25. For Dressel, it was his fourth individual triumph of the weekend and cemented his MVP status for the second time during this ISL season. But Chadwick’s ability to advance to the final and get his team second-place points enabled the Current to claim top honors in the American Derby.

“We just had guys and girls really stepping up,” said Current captain Matt Grevers. “Ryan Held actually wasn’t feeling well. He’s not swimming 100%, but I think getting fourth and getting to the next round gave us that extra boost. Actually gained us points on the Skins when we thought we were going to lose.

“I don’t know if anyone in the world ever can beat that guy in this type of event. I mean, he’s Caeleb Dressel. But for us to get two and then four that was one of the best scenarios we could have come up with. So that is pretty awesome to see our teammates really step up. I think those individual efforts really led to the team effort that won the meet.”


Women’s 50 Freestyle (Skins)

The first round of the three-round Skins competition went to the sprint star of the week as the L.A. Current’s Beryl Gastaldello led the way in 23.98, with second place going to Pernille Blume of the New York Breakers. Also surviving to advance to the semifinals were the D.C. United’s Siobhan Haughey and the Cali Condors’ Kasia Wasick.

Haughey & Gastaldello

Photo Courtesy:

Gastaldello again prevailed in the semifinals, this time with a performance of 24.54 following a mere three-minute rest. Haughey, best known for her ability in the 200 freestyle, relied on her training base to get the second berth to the final.

The final saw Gastaldello storm to the title in 24.46, an impressive time given the fact that she contested three races in fewer than 10 minutes. The Skins win was the conclusion of a tremendous weekend for Gastaldello, who ended with four victories in the sprint disciplines.

“It was amazing,” Gastaldello said. “I’m very happy. I did it for the team, and I’m excited about that.”

Men’s 200 Butterfly

The L.A. Current’s Tom Shields powered to the lead off the start and stayed in that position to prevail in 1:51.51, with his teammate Chase Kalisz finishing second to assure 16 points for their squad. Greece’s Andreas Vazaios picked up a third-place finish for the D.C. Trident.

Women’s 200 Butterfly

Hali Flickinger secured her second victory of the afternoon as she covered the 200 fly in 2:03.81, comfortably ahead of Remedy Rule, a new addition to the D.C. Trident. Third place went to Ella Eastin of the L.A. Current.

“That actually wasn’t that bad,” Flickinger said of her double. “I train to do that kind of stuff. Work hard, play hard. I feel like I’m in college again.”

Team Standings at Second Break

Cali Condors – 431.5
L.A. Current – 411
D.C. Trident – 275.5
N.Y. Breakers – 273

Mixed 400 Freestyle Relay

ISL: Condors

The Cali Condors, left, celebrate their win in the mixed 400 freestyle relay.

Fueled by Caeleb Dressel’s leadoff leg of 45.71, the Cali Condors ran away from the field in the mixed freestyle relay, the squad touching in 3:18.56. Dressel was followed on the relay by Kacper Majchrzak, Mallory Comerford and Melanie Margalis. The New York Breakers and L.A. Current were second and third.

Women’s 100 Backstroke

Olivia Smoliga

Olivia Smoliga discusses her win in the 100 backstroke for the Cali Condors.

Just as the L.A. Current made a dent in the previous event, the Cali Condors managed to erase that impact as Olivia Smoliga and Kylie Masse gave their team a one-three showing. Smoliga, known for her short-course skill set, won the event in 55.97. Kathleen Baker provided a runnerup effort the Current.

Men’s 100 Backstroke

The L.A. Current clawed back on the Cali Condors a bit as the tandem of Matt Grevers and Shane Ryan went first and second, Ryan proving to be a quality addition to the roster ahead of this meet. Grevers won the race in 50.67, with third place going to the D.C. United’s Tristan Holland.

Women’s 50 Butterfly

Beryl Gastaldello

Beryl Gastaldello has been a sprint star this weekend for the L.A. Current.

Frenchwoman Beryl Gastaldello has been a sprint star this weekend. After winning the 50 free and 50 backstroke on Saturday, Gastaldello added the 50 butterfly on Sunday, thanks to a winning effort of 24.81, the fastest time in the world this year. Gastaldello’s L.A. Current teammate Farida Osman was third, with Kelsi Dahlia of the Cali Condors finishing second.

Men’s 50 Butterfly

Caeleb Dressel continued his headliner ways for the Cali Condors as the current face of American swimming established an American record in the 50 fly, his time of 21.21 erasing the former mark of 22.32, which was set by Michael Andrew in 2018. Dressel was followed in second by the L.A. Current’s Tom Shields, with Andrew placing third for the N.Y. Breakers.

“That was actually a really bad race,” Dressel said. “My breakout and turns were really bad. No matter what, there will never be a perfect race. There is always something to work on.”

Women’s 200 Individual Medley

ISL: Melanie Margalis

Melanie Margalis prepares to exit the water after winning the 200 IM.

Not long after delivering a third-place showing for the Cali Condors in the 400 freestyle, Melanie Margalis came through with a triumph in the 200 medley, her time of 2:05.18 exactly a second off her American record. The Condors’ Kelsey Wog followed Margalis to the wall, with the L.A. Current’s Ella Eastin placing third.

Men’s 200 Individual Medley

Enjoying their best day of the ISL campaign, the D.C. Trident watched Andreas Vazaios fend off the competition in the 200 IM, as he won in 1:52.95. The L.A. Current received second- and third-place outings, respectively, from Chase Kalisz and Josh Prenot.

Team Standings at First Break

Cali Condors – 336.5
L.A. Current – 310
D.C. Trident – 227
N.Y. Breakers – 223.5

Women’s 400 Medley Relay

Taking advantage of the double scoring for the relay events, the Cali Condors put some distance between themselves and the L.A. Current behind a one-three finish that yielded 30 points. The top relay of Olivia Smoliga, Lilly King, Kelsi Dahlia and Mallory Comerford managed a time of 3:47.45. The Current notched a second-place finish. King delivered a split of 1:03.11 on her breaststroke leg to open up a lead for the Condors.

Men’s 400 Freestyle

The D.C. Trident’s Zane Grothe led wire to wire and was part of a one-three finish for his squad, as Velimir Stjepanovic added six valuable points. Grothe pressed the pace from the start and came away with a winning time of 3:40.73. The Cali Condors’ Townley Haas split the Trident swimmers for second place.

Women’s 400 Freestyle

The Cali Condors picked up some big points as Hali Flickinger ran down the L.A. Current’s Leah Smith on the final lap for victory, with teammate Melanie Margalis touching in third place. Flickinger got the best of Smith at the touch and registered a winning mark of 3:58.95.


Men’s 100 Breaststroke

ISL: Ian Finnerty

Ian Finnerty set his second American record in as many days with a triumph in the 100 breaststroke.

The American record in his pocket in the 50 breaststroke from Saturday, the D.C. United’s Ian Finnerty added another American standard in the 100 breaststroke, when he bested the field behind a performance of 56.29. That swim erased the former mark of 56.43, set by Cody Miller in 2015. The L.A. Current got a scoring boost from Felipe Lima and Will Licon, as they placed second and third.

“That was definitely a time I was looking for,” Finnerty said. “I’m pretty happy with it.”

Women’s 100 Breaststroke

The Cali Condors’ Lilly King made it three consecutive breaststroke sweeps in ISL competition as she managed the fastest time in the world this year, an effort of 1:03.00. King was followed to the wall by Annie Lazor of the L.A. Current, with Breeja Larson of the N.Y. Breakers claiming the third spot. King was just .08 shy of Katie Meili’s American record of 1:02.92.

Men’s 100 Freestyle

ISL: Caeleb Dressel

With the fastest time in the world this year, Caeleb Dressel ran away with the 100 freestyle.

Make it three wins in as many outings on the weekend for the Cali Condors’ Caeleb Dressel, who fired off the fastest time in the world this year with a winning time of 45.69. Dressel, who was just off his American record of 45.62, was supported in second place by teammate Kacper Majchrzak, with Michael Chadwick of the L.A. Current placing third.

Women’s 100 Freestyle

Meeting in the middle of their favorite distances, the L.A. Current’s Beryl Gastaldello and the D.C. Trident’s Siobhan Haughey shared first place in the 100 free, each posting a mark of 51.81. Gastaldello won the 50 free on Day One, when Haughey was the top finisher in the 200 free. Placing third for the New York Breakers was Madison Wilson.