ISL American Derby: Caeleb Dressel Shines; Condors and Current Ready to Roll Dice in Las Vegas

ISL: Caeleb Dressel

ISL American Derby (Day One)

Vegas Baby!

As the International Swimming League season resumed on Saturday with the American Derby at the Eppley Recreation Center in College Park, Maryland, there was one over-arching emphasis: Nail down a berth to next month’s championship competition in Las Vegas. While the Cali Condors (six points) and L.A. Current (five points) entered the American Derby ahead of the D.C. Trident (four points) and the N.Y. Breakers (two points), they still had to assure they got the job done and didn’t view a bid to Vegas as a foregone conclusion.

Consider that goal met.

Throughout the two hours of Saturday’s session, the Condors and Current took turns headlining the action and were never separated by much more than a few points. The Condors ultimately ended the day on top, their 234.5 points a half-point ahead of the 234 points tallied by the Current. The Breakers finished with 167.5 points, with the D.C. Trident at 165 points. With the Condors and Current locked into the final in Vegas, Sunday’s meet will be for Red, White and Blue bragging rights.

Although Katie Ledecky was missing from the D.C. Trident roster due to the importance of a previously scheduled training block ahead of the 2020 Olympic campaign, there was plenty of firepower on deck for the American Derby. With all four United States-based squads racing against each other for the first time, this weekend’s meet allowed for a greater number of National Team members to square off as rivals, rather than see one another as teammates.

Two American records went down during action as Ian Finnerty clocked 25.99 for a U.S. standard in the 50 breaststroke and Melanie Margalis set an American record of 4:24.46 in the 400 individual medley. Overall, the day belonged to Caeleb Dressel, the world’s premier male swimmer who won the 100 butterfly and 50 freestyle for the Cali Condors. Dressel also raced in a pair of relays and is atop the MVP standings at the meet’s midway point.

“I think the last four, five weeks since the last ISL meet, I think we really got hammered,” Margalis said of a heavy training block. “On Wednesday, we dropped down a little bit and then Thursday we traveled, so I think that probably had something to do with it. Just made us a little fresher going into this weekend.”

The ISL debut of medley standout Chase Kalisz was also of note, his presence adding depth for the L.A. Current and coach David Marsh. In addition to Kalisz, the Current welcomed Leah Smith into the fold, after the distance freestyler missed the opening rounds due to injury.

During this first season of ISL action, there hasn’t been much in the way of uncertainty as far as the team races are concerned. Next week, when the European Derby unfolds, Energy Standard and the London Roar are expected to easily advance to the Vegas final.

Swimming World’s live event-by-event coverage:

Team Scoring After Day One

Cali Condors – 234.5
L.A. Current – 234
N.Y. Breakers – 167.5
D.C. Trident – 165

MVP Standings After Day One

Caeleb Dressel – 25.5
Michael Andrew – 21.5
Kathleen Baker – 21.0
Beryl Gastaldello – 21.0

Men’s 400 Freestyle Relay

Propelled by Caeleb Dressel’s leadoff leg of 46.21, the Cali Condors won the final event of Day One of the American Derby and took a half-point lead into the second day of the meet. Dressel was followed for the Condors by Kacper Majchrzak, Bowen Becker and Justin Ress, the quartet putting together a time of 3:08.52. The L.A. Current came up with second- and third-place finishes and kept the battle close going into the second day, which will feature the triple-scoring Skins competition.

Men’s 200 Breaststroke

Ian Finnerty

Ian Finnerty led from the start to top the field in the 200 breaststroke.

Coming off an American record in the 50 breaststroke from earlier in the session, Ian Finnerty of the D.C. Trident pushed the pace from the start and held on to win in 2:02.76. Finnerty needed to build that early lead as Germany’s Marco Koch was closing down the stretch and placed second for the New York Breakers, with Will Licon placing third for the L.A. Current.

“It is awesome,” Finnerty said of the ISL experience. “I never get to swim short-course meters as an American. These are my first couple of meets. It has been a great experience. Getting the record is nice but trying to get the win for D.C. is what keeps us going. Having that aspect of the team is definitely pushing people, especially at the end of races.”

Women’s 200 Breaststroke

Lilly King extended her unbeaten streak in the breaststroke events in ISL competition by posting the fastest time in the world, an effort of 2:17.78. Making the performance even more satisfying was the fact that King was followed to the wall by her Cali Condors teammate, Kelsey Wog.

Team Scoring at Third Break

L.A. Current – 190
Cali Condors – 188.5
N.Y. Breakers – 142.5
D.C. Trident – 135

Men’s 50 Backstroke

Matt Grevers

Matt Grevers shared victory with Michael Andrew in the 50 backstroke.

A down-to-the-wire finish resulted in a tie, as Matt Grevers of the L.A. Current and Michael Andrew of the N.Y. Breakers posted identical marks of 23.38. Andrew noted after the race that Grevers provided some technique advice during the ISL’s stop in Budapest. Taking third was Jeremy Stravius of the D.C. Trident.

Women’s 50 Backstroke

Beryl Gastaldello

Beryl Gastaldello celebrating a win in the 50 backstroke.

It’s been quite a sprint day for Beryl Gastaldello, as she blazed to her second triumph, winning the 50 backstroke in 26.18, with L.A. Current teammate Kathleen Baker placing second for major points. Gastaldello, who helped the Current pull within a half-point of the Cali Condors, earlier won the 50 freestyle. Placing third for the Condors was Olivia Smoliga.

Men’s 200 Freestyle

The L.A. Current picked up their second one-two finish in an event in which they turned to Andrew Seliskar. After Seliskar won the 400 medley earlier in the session, the Cal product placed second to teammate Blake Pieroni in the 200 free, Pieroni charging late to get his first ISL win in 1:43.48. The New York Breakers watched Joao De Lucca placed third.

Women’s 200 Freestyle

Siobhan Haughey

Siobhan Haughey cruised to a U.S. Open record in the 200 freestyle.

Three ISL races in the 200 freestyle for Siobhan Haughey of the D.C. United, and three victories, including a U.S. Open record performance on Saturday. Haughey left no doubt to the outcome in College Park, as she won in 1:51.99, ahead of the shared second-place finishers, Madison Wilson of the N.Y. Breakers and Mallory Comerford of the Cali Condors.

Team Scoring at Second Break

Cali Condors – 157
L.A. Current – 148
N.Y. Breakers – 106
D.C. Trident – 101

Men’s 400 Medley Relay

Just when the L.A. Current appeared to have enjoyed a massive performance, a disqualification of their third-place relay took some of the excitement from the deck. A false start by Will Licon heading into the breaststroke leg from Shane Ryan’s backstroke leg led to the disqualification, although the Current got first-place points from the squad of Matt Grevers, Felipe Lima, Tom Shields and Michael Chadwick. That unit was timed in 3:23.63, with the D.C. Trident and Cali Condors placing second and third.

Women’s 50 Freestyle

In a wide-open field, the L.A. Current’s Beryl Gastaldello checked in with a time of 23.81 to secure nine points for her squad. Gastaldello was followed into the wall by the New York Breakers’ Pernille Blume, the Olympic champion from 2016, and the Cali Condors’ Kasia Wasick.

Men’s 50 Freestyle

ISL: Cali Condors

Caeleb Dressel looks to the scoreboard after winning the 50 freestyle in 20.81 for the Cali Condors.

For the second time on the afternoon, Caeleb Dressel couldn’t be caught in an event in which he was the world champion over the summer. Dressel used his customary dominant start to create separation from the opposition and cruised through his two laps in 20.81, ahead of the New York Breakers’ Michael Andrew. Ryan Held and Michael Chadwick shared third place for the L.A. Current.

Women’s 200 Backstroke

Baker & Bilquist

The L.A. Current benefited from Kathleen Baker, left, and Amy Bilquist placing first and second in the 200 backstroke.

As an answer to the Cali Condors’ one-two sweep in the previous event, Kathleen Baker and Amy Bilquist fueled the L.A. Current to a sweep of their own, Baker touching the wall in 2:01.57. The Condors received key third-place points from Kylie Masse.

Men’s 200 Backstroke

Another sweep of the top two positions handed the Cali Condors maximum points, this time thanks to the contributions of Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki and John Shebat. Kawecki topped the field with a time of 1:51.68. Canadian Markus Thormeyer was third for the New York Breakers.

Team Scoring at First Break

Cali Condors – 93
L.A. Current – 87
D.C. Trident – 60
N.Y. Breakers – 56

Women’s 400 Freestyle Relay

The Cali Condors relied on the foursome of Olivia Smoliga (52.99), Kelsi Dahlia (52.31), Natalie Hinds (52.40) and Mallory Comerford (51.68) to snare the double points available in the relay event. The New York Breakers picked up second place while the L.A. Current finished third.

Men’s 400 Individual Medley

ISL: SeliskarKalisz

Andrew Seliskar, left, and Chase Kalisz exchange congratulations after going first and second in the 400 medley.

Andrew Seliskar was able to reel in Chase Kalisz on the freestyle leg to claim victory in 4:02.88, but the most important fact of the race was that Seliskar and Kalisz both represented the L.A. Current and combined for 16 points. The sweep of the top positions by Seliskar and Kalisz was followed by Jay Litherland’s third-place finish for the D.C. Trident.

“I just do my best, get a snack between races and get in the warm-down pool,” Seliskar said of his strategy of handling a heavy schedule. “In this energy and environment, it’s easy to get up and race.”

Women’s 400 Individual Medley

ISL: Melanie Margalis

Melanie Margalis has won all three of her 400 IM events during the ISL season.

For the third time in as many ISL outings, Melanie Margalis took home top honors in the 400 medley, this time giving the Cali Condors a valuable nine points behind a time of 4:24.46, which was good for an American record. The previous standard stood at 4:24.62, posted by Caitlin Leverenz in 2011. Margalis’ performance was complemented by Hali Flickinger’s third-place showing. Splitting the Condors was the L.A. Current’s Ella Eastin.

Men’s 50 Breaststroke

The L.A. Current’s Felipe Lima came through in the sprint breaststroke as he managed a time of 25.92 to better runnerup Ian Finnerty of the D.C. Trident. Michael Andrew, of the N.Y. Breakers, rounded out the top three. Finnerty’s time of 25.99 was good for an American record.

Women’s 50 Breaststroke

ISL: King & Hannis

Lilly King, right, and Molly Hannis enjoyed a one-two finish in the 50 breaststroke for the Cali Condors.

The Cali Condors have benefited from their strength in the breaststroke events throughout the early stages of the ISL season, and that was no different in College Park. Lilly King (29.00) and Molly Hannis placed first and second to give the Condors a 16-point haul. The D.C. Trident’s Siobhan Haughey, known best for her freestyle prowess, demonstrated her range with a third-place effort.

“It’s loud and there are a lot of lights,” King said. “We’ve been killing it in the breaststroke races.”

Men’s 100 Butterfly

Caeleb Dressel

Caeleb Dressel

A massive final underwater from Caeleb Dressel propelled the Cali Condors stalwart to a winning time of 49.16, the fastest in the world this year. Dressel needed every bit of that superb performance to fend off Tom Shields of the L.A. Current. The New York Breakers got a third-place finish from Clyde Lewis.

Women’s 100 Butterfly

Kelsi Dahlia rallied from third place at the midway mark and pulled away from the field to prevail in 55.78 for the Cali Condors, with the L.A. Current’s Kendyl Stewart placing second. Taylor Lovemore of the D.C. Trident touched in third.

European correspondent Liz Byrnes contributed to this report.


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David Abineri
3 years ago

Why are there so few TIMES beyond first place reported here and on the ESPN coverage of this meet? I, for one, would be interested in what was happening beyond just the winner in each event.

3 years ago
Reply to  David Abineri

It’s a deliberate decision of the ISL, David. I think it a mistake in a sport where the difference between people is a story beyond its moment and the human brain capable of seeing both race and gap and appreciating the difference. Some races could go without a clock … but when the clock is on, it should form a part of the instant result.

3 years ago
Reply to  Craig Lord

Swimming is a timed sport. All times should be made easily available. I also would like to see some form of ‘psych sheet’ prior to each race. This information never detracts from the race, but in fact makes it easier to appreciate. Every major sport maintains an avalanche of data and it never seems to get in the way. ISL is an opportunity for obvious data collection and comparison. (first half/second half swimmers; prelim vs finals performances; etc.) And please STOP the closeup videos and let ME decide which swimmer I want to watch!