ISL Match 6, Day 1: Daiya Seto Touches Out Caeleb Dressel in Exciting 200 IM; London Roar Narrowly Leading Cali Condors

Daiya Seto (photo: Mike Lewis)
Daiya Seto -- Photo Courtesy: Mike Lewis/ISL

ISL Match 6, Day 1: Daiya Seto Touches Out Caeleb Dressel in Exciting 200 IM; London Roar Narrowly Leading Cali Condors

The reigning ISL champion Cali Condors have won their first two matches of the regular season, which is being held entirely in Naples, Italy, over a five-week stretch. But in Match #6, the London Roar have gotten off to an impressive start and hold a 13.5-point lead after the first day of competition. Minna AthertonLuke Greenbank, Emma McKeon, Guilherme Guido, Kira Toussaint and Duncan Scott all recorded individual victories for London, and the Roar also dominated the men’s 400 freestyle relay.

Meanwhile, Kelsi DahliaCaeleb Dressel and Lilly King won three of the first five events of the day for Cali, and King, in particular, was impressive as she went out on world-record pace in the women’s 200 breaststroke, but the Condors did not win any more individual events. They did, however, post comfortable wins in three relay events. And even with the deficit they are facing, the Condors are favored to win this match still because of skins.

Sunday’s 50-meter elimination races will feature Dahlia facing off against McKeon in butterfly and Dressel expected to dominate freestyle, and teams can earn huge points in those events. Last week in Match #4, Dahlia and Dressel kept jackpotting the field as Cali extended its lead by almost 100 points in just the skins events. So with the setup of skins, particularly that men’s race, it’s going to be really hard for London to hold on and win this match. The Roar will need to own a significant edge going into skins to make it interesting. Under the ISL’s rich-get-richer system, the Condors have a systematic edge that makes it difficult for them to lose all but the blowout matches, simply thanks to the skins.

Meanwhile, in one of the most exciting races of the season so far, Tokyo Frog Kings’ Daiya Seto held off a charging Dressel to win the men’s 200 IM. Seto won both of his individual races Saturday, hopping in for the 200 IM afer holding off Nic Fink in the men’s 200 breast as Seto continues his rebound following a rough Tokyo Olympics.

Team Scores After Day One:

  • London Roar, 277
  • Cali Condors, 263.5
  • Tokyo Frog Kings, 187
  • Aqua Centurions, 181.5

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Women’s 100 Butterfly

Emma McKeon, a seven-time medalist from the Tokyo Olympics, is making her ISL debut for 2021 in Match #6 after just arriving in Naples last week, and McKeon is representing the London Roar in the ISL. She went head-to-head with the Cali Condors’ Kelsi Dahlia, already the winner of the 100 fly in Match #2 and Match #4 and the fastest swimmer in the ISL this year at 55.22. McKeon went out fast and led Dahlia at the 50-meter mark, 25.87 to 26.26, but Dahlia closed in 29.14 to easily eclipse the homecoming speed of everyone else in the field.

Dahlia touched first in 55.40 as she jackpotted the last three swimmers in the field, and McKeon ended up second in 55.64. Aqua Centurions’ Elena di Liddo was third in 56.39.

Men’s 100 Butterfly

Just like his Cali Condors’ teammate Kelsi Dahlia in the women’s 100 fly, Caeleb Dressel saved something for the second half of his 100 fly. The five-time gold medalist from Tokyo trailed London Roar’s Vini Lanza at the halfway point by 0.05, but he closed in 25.34, an amazing 1.3 seconds quicker than any other competitor on the second 50. He hit the wall in 48.71, just a bit off his 48.53 from Match #4 that is the top time in the ISL this year. This marked the Condors’ third straight match opening with victories in both 100 fly events.

Lanza held on to finish second, but he was not in the same stratosphere as Dressel with his 50.01, and Cali’s Marcin Cieslak took third in 50.19. Dressel jackpotted two swimmers in this race to earn 12 points.

Women’s 200 Backstroke

In a showdown in the women’s 200 back, London Roar’s Minna Atherton held off Cali Condors’ Beata Nelson. Both swimmers were undefeated in their previous ISL appearances, Atherton in Match #3 and Nelson in Match #2 and #4, but when they faced off, Atherton was able to build a lead and then hold tough as Nelson, propelled by her always-impressive underwater dolphin kicks, closed hard. But Nelson ended up a half-second behind her Australian rival, 2:01.40 to 2:01.58. Nelson, however, still owns the league’s top time this season at 2:01.11, while Atherton holds the ISL record at 1:59.25, set in 2019.

Tokyo Frog Kings’ Catie DeLoof placed third in 2:04.75, while four swimmers were jackpotted. That gave Atherton 19 total points, crushing the seven that Nelson earned for Cali. So despite Cali’s two wins to begin the day, London had moved into the lead after three races.

Men’s 200 Backstroke

The men’s 200 back was another huge event for London. Christian Diener led for the first 150 meters, and he sat three tenths ahead of teammate and Olympic bronze medalist Luke Greenbank with 50 meters to go. But both Greenbank and Tokyo Frog King’s Grigory Tarasevich flew past Diener on the last 50. Greenbank won in 1:50.36, off his season-best time of 1:50.15, while Energy Standard’s Evgeny Rylov is the only swimmer under 1:50 this season (1:49.61). Tarasevich was second in 1:50.79, while Diener faded but still placed an easy third in 1:50.98.

Women’s 200 Breaststroke

Lilly King made a run at the world record in the women’s 200 breast, and even though she ended up falling more than two seconds off that pace established by Rebecca Soni in 2009, she still won by almost 3.5 seconds. King was a half-second under world-record pace after 50 meters and tied after 100 meters, but Soni’s stellar back half was too much for this 24-year-old. However, King will have plenty more opportunities this ISL season, particularly in the playoffs and likely the ISL Final, to aim for that record.

King swam a 2:16.83 to win the event for the Cali Condors, beating her season-best mark of 2:17.66 by almost a second, but she was still well off her lifetime best of 2:15.56, that ranks fourth all-time. Meanwhile, London Roar’s Annie Lazor was behind the field for most of the race but accelerated on the back end, as she often does, to finish second in 2:20.31. Lazor is the seventh-fastest swimmer in history of 2:16.33. King and Lazor are training partners at Indiana University, and the two captured silver and bronze medals, respectively, at the Olympics.

Aqua Centurions’ Martina Carraro finished third in 2:21.22, and the final two swimmers in the race were jackpotted.

Men’s 200 Breaststroke

Competing in his second match of the season with the Tokyo Frog Kings, Daiya Seto once again impressed as he continues a rebound from a disastrous Olympics, where he qualified for only one final and left without a medal. Seto was a surprise winner in the 200 breast in Match #2, and he led wire-to-wire in this one. He swam a 2:02.86, just off his 2:02.72 from two weeks earlier, and he needed every bit of this to hold off Cali Condors’ Nic Fink. Fink closed in 30.99, compared to Seto’s 31.96, to finish in 2:03.05, but the 27-year-old from Japan held on just barely.

Tokyo went 1-3 here as Yasuhiro Koseki finished in 2:04.05, holding off Aqua Centurions’ Arno Kamminga (2:04.36) and Cali Condors’ Kevin Cordes (2:04.79).

Women’s 400 Freestyle Relay

The London Roar and Cali Condors had exchanged leads and stayed tightly bunched during the first six events of the day, but Cali opened up a 23-point advantage with a relay win here. The group of Olivia Smoliga (53.10), Erika Brown (52.15), Beata Nelson (52.04) and Kelsi Dahlia (52.45) combined to swim a time of 3:29.74, well ahead of the Aqua Centurions group of Mariia KamenevaHolly BarrattSilvia di Pietro and Federica Pellegrini, who finished in 3:31.12.

London Roar did get third with Kim BuschMarie WattelFreya Anderson and Kira Toussaint combining for a 3:31.96. That put London just ahead of the Tokyo Frog Kings, who got a 52.38 split out of Catie DeLoof. Nelson had the top overall split, while Natalie Hinds had the second-best mark with a 52.08 on the Condors’ B-relay.

The Aqua Centurions and London Roar B-teams missed the standard time, so each group lost two points. That helped Cali open up its lead even further over London.

Men’s 50 Freestyle

Even without Caeleb Dressel in the field, the Cali Condors still managed to grab the victory. Justin Ress, second to Dressel on multiple occasions in the sprints so far this year, got his first individual victory of the season. His 21.06 put him on the wall 0.17 ahead of the rest of the field, with Tokyo Frog King’s Vladimir Morozov taking second in 21.23. Just behind were the Cali Condors’ Jesse Puts (21.30) and Aqua Centurions Alessandro Miressi (21.33).

Women’s 50 Freestyle

Emma McKeon, the Olympic gold medalist in the 50 free and 100 free, is competing in her first ISL match of the season for the London Roar, and she got her first victory in the splash-and-dash. After earlier finishing second behind Kelsi Dahlia in the 100 fly, McKeon put up a sterling time of 23.60. That’s well off the ISL record of 23.17 set by Sarah Sjostrom last week, but that still helped her win the race by more than six tenths.

The Cali Condors, however, ended up scoring more points than rival London as Erika Brown took second in 24.22 and teammate Olivia Smoliga was third in 24.27.

Men’s 200 IM

This was set to be the race of the ISL season so far as Caeleb Dressel was skipping his signature 50 free to take on Olympic silver medalist Duncan Scott, 2019 world champion Daiya Seto and 2017 world champion Chase Kalisz, and in the end, the Tokyo Frog Kings’ Seto held off Dressel by a mere two hundredths, 1:51.12 to 1:51.14. Seto touched even with Dressel after butterfly and then built a big lead on backstroke and breaststroke. But then, Seto faded as Dressel charged, splitting an incredible 25.72 on the last two lengths. Seto had to hang tough to get into the wall first — and he also claimed jackpot points from the seventh and eighth-place finishers.

Seto ranks third all-time in the event at 1:50.76, while Dressel moved to fifth all-time and second among Americans with his performance.

Scott, of the London Roar, was the only swimmer to come close to Dressel on his freestyle as he came home in 26.42 to finish third in 1:52.95, ahead of the Aqua Centurions’ Kalisz (1:53.28) and London’s Vini Lanza (1:53.42).

Women’s 200 IM

Tokyo Frog Kings’ Yui Ohashi claimed her first victory of the ISL season in the 200 IM. Ohashi, the gold medalist at the Olympics in both medley races, took the lead away from Cali’s Beata Nelson on the backstroke leg and held on over the breaststroke and freestyle legs. Ohashi came in at 2:06.51, just ahead of Nelson at 2:06.68. London’s Sydney Pickrem, as she has done so many times in her career, closed on the field on the breaststroke and freestyle legs and took third in 2:06.86.

Men’s 50 Breaststroke

The Aqua Centurions got a massive haul in the men’s 50 breaststroke as Nicolo Martinenghi won for the third time in his three matches and teammate Fabio Scozzoli took second. Martinenghi touched at 25.86, just ahead of Scozzoli in 25.88. Energy Standard’s Ilya Shymanovich has the season’s top time with his 25.41 from last week, Martinenghi has beaten Shymanovich in their only head-to-head matchup this season in Match #1. Cali Condors’ Nic Fink aimed to break up the Centurions’ sweep, but he finished just behind that duo in third place at 25.97.

Women’s 50 Breaststroke

In one of the meet’s most wide-open events, the Aqua Centurions picked up another win as Arianna Castiglioni got the better of the Cali Condors’ duo of Lilly King and Molly Hannis. King looked like she might have edged just in front, but Castiglioni nailed her finish to get her hands on the wall in 29.46, 0.16 ahead of King (29.62). Hannis was third in 29.75, just ahead of world-record holder Alia Atkinson of the London Roar (29.82). Castiglioni jackpotted the last two finishers in the event.

Interestingly, King has been almost a half-second faster than this performance earlier in the season. Her 29.15 ranks first this season, followed by Hannis (29.41) and then Castiglioni (29.42). None of them eclipsed those marks in this race.

Men’s 400 Freestyle Relay

The Cali Condors had been undefeated so far this season in relays when Caeleb Dressel swam, but Dressel could not catch his team up this time. That group actually ended up fourth while the London Roar stormed to the front of the field and held on. Kyle Chalmers, the Olympic silver medalist in the 100 free and gold medalist back in 2016, led off in 45.69. That’s a time that only Dressel has beaten this season, with his 45.47 from Match #4 last week, so that sets up a scintillating showdown between the two in Sunday’s individual 100 free. It was just seven weeks ago when Dressel touched out Chalmers for the Olympic gold by just six hundredths.

But as for this relay, Katsumi Nakamura (46.31), Dylan Carter (46.04) and Edward Mildred (47.01) managed to stay more than two seconds ahead of the field after Chalmers provided the early advantage, and London won in 3:05.05. That is the top time in the ISL so far this season, and that’s without star Duncan Scott participating on the squad.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Frog King’s Pedro SpajariRichard BohusChristian Quintero and Nandor Nemeth took second in 3:07.34, and Aqua Centurions’ Alessandro MiressiThomas CecconVladislav Grinev and Marcelo Cherighini finished third in 3:07.48.

Cali got a 45.89 split from Justin Ress on the third split, but Dressel, clearly fatigued from his 200 IM battle with Daiya Seto, only split 47.26.

Women’s 50 Backstroke

London Roar’s Kira Toussaint, the world-record holder in the 50 back at 25.40, picked up a big win in the shortest backstroke event. Toussaint blasted ahead of the field and swam a 26.11, which is her season-best mark but off the 25.98 that DC Trident’s Ali DeLoof swam Thursday for the top time in the ISL this season. Meanwhile, Cali Condors’ Olivia Smoliga posted her top finish of the season so far as she took second in 26.40, just ahead of Aqua Centurions’ Holly Barratt (26.50), Cali Condors’ Sherridon Dressel (26.63), London Roar’s Minna Atherton (26.67) and Aqua Centurions’ Mariia Kameneva (26.69).

Men’s 50 Backstroke

London Roar’s Guilherme Guido crushed the 50 back and blasted a 22.60, tying the top time in the ISL this season (which he owns, from Match #3) and just missing Ryan Murphy’s ISL record of 22.54. Only Cali Condors’ Coleman Stewart was anywhere close to Guido, finishing in 22.92, while the rest of the field was another half-second behind. Guido beat four swimmers by at least nine tenths to jackpot all of them and pick up an impressive 19 for the London Roar. Combined with Christian Diener’s fourth-place points, that put the London Roar back into the lead over the Condors.

Tokyo Frog Kings’ Takeshi Kawamoto was the only other swimmer to score as he placed third in 23.42.

Women’s 400 Freestyle

Tokyo Frog Kings’ Paige Madden earned her first-ever ISL win in the 400 free. Her teammate Chihiro Igarashi was first after 100 meters to claim most points at the checkpoint, followed by Aqua Centurions’ Laura Taylor. Madden was third at that point, but she quickly took over and pulled away to win in 4:02.84, 1.80 seconds ahead of Taylor (4:04.64). Aqua Centurions’ Martina Caramignoli was just one hundredth back of Taylor for third (4:04.65).

Men’s 400 Freestyle

Duncan Scott did not compete on London Roar’s 400 free relay a few events earlier as he rested up for the individual 400 free, and that strategy worked out perfectly for the Roar. The Kyle Chalmers-led squad won the relay without Scott, and then Scott was victorious in the 400 free, an event he rarely swims. London grabbed maximum points at the 100-meter checkpoint as Zac Incerti and Scott flipped 1-2, and then Scott pulled ahead. Scott came in at 3:41.14, six tenths ahead of Aqua Centurions’ Matteo Ciampi (3:41.78).

Tokyo Frog Kings’ Danill Pasynkov and Cali Condors’ Townley Haas tied for third in 3:44.62. In the team race for first place, Incerti placed seventh but had his checkpoint points, while Cali’s Tomas Peribonio missed the checkpoint time and lost a point. That moved London 29.5 points ahead of the Condors going into the medley relays.

Women’s 400 Medley Relay

It is difficult to imagine any team touching the Cali Condors in the women’s 400 medley relay this season. In this match, the quartet of Beata Nelson (56.52), Lilly King (1:03.67), Kelsi Dahlia (55.50) and Erika Brown (52.01) combined for a time of 3:47.70, the quickest mark in the league this season. The Condors set the world record for the United States in last year’s ISL final at 3:44.52, with Olivia Smoliga, King, Dahlia and Brown on the squad.

The Aqua Centurions’ team of Mariia KamenevaArianna CastiglioniElena di Liddo and Federica Pellegrini took second in 3:49.45, with Pellegrini coming home in a fast 52.09, and the London Roar took third with Kira ToussaintAlia AtkinsonEmma McKeon and Freya Anderson. Toussaint tied with Nelson for the top backstroke split (56.52), and McKeon’s 55.13 was the top fly split.

The skins selection process gave the Cali Condors the top choice, once again, and head coach Jeff Julian chose butterfly over freestyle. That should set up a fun showdown between Dahlia and McKeon in elimination 50s of butterfly.

Men’s 400 Medley Relay

Following a surprising fourth-place finish in the 400 free relay, the Cali Condors were back on top in the medley, but that still was not quite enough to overtake the London Roar for the lead midday through the match. Coleman Stewart (49.88), Nic Fink (56.43), Caeleb Dressel (49.24) and Justin Ress (45.74) teamed up to win in 3:21.29, exactly one second ahead of the London Roar, who went with Guilherme GuidoSam WilliamsonVini Lanza and Kyle Chalmers.

Guido (49.45) and Chalmers (45.24) each had the top splits on their respective legs, and Lanza was good with his 49.54, but breaststroke was a struggle as Fink’s split was 1.63 seconds ahead of Williamson’s 58.06. However, London should be in position to dominate this relay in a matchup with the Condors at the end of the season when Adam Peaty, the world’s fastest sprint breaststroker, returns to the squad later in the season.

Tokyo Frog Kings’ Grigory TarasevichYasuhiro KosekiTakeshi Kawamoto and Nandor Nemeth came in third at 3:22.63.

Once again, the Condors picked the stroke for skins, and Julian went with freestyle, where Dressel and Ress went 1-2 in last week’s match and Dressel should be favored to dominate again.

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