ISL Semifinal 1, Day 1 Notes: Energy Standard Notches Fastest 400 Freestyle Relay in History


ISL Semifinal 1, Day 1 Notes: Energy Standard Notches Fastest 400 Freestyle Relay in History

Following 10 regular-season matches, the International Swimming League postseason opened on Saturday with the first of a pair of two-day semifinals. Energy Standard totaled 291 points during Day One action to take the lead over the London Roar, which accumulated 270 points. The Tokyo Frog Kings checked in with 208 points, followed by the New York Breakers at 114 points.

Here are some notes from the first semifinal.

Fastest Ever

The performance won’t count as a world record, but what Energy Standard put together in the 400 freestyle relay was special in nature. Behind the quartet of Siobhan Haughey, Pernille Blume, Femke Heemskerk and Sarah Sjostrom, Energy registered the fastest time in history, an effort of 3:25.82. All four members of the relay split in the 51-second range.

The world record in the event sits at 3:26.53, posted by the Netherlands (with Heemskerk contributing) at the 2014 World Short Course Championships. Energy Standard’s mark, while faster, will not count as a world record because the relay members hail from different countries, Haughey from Hong Kong, Blume from Denmark, Heemskerk from the Netherlands and Sjostrom from Sweden.

Still, the performance was superb, and it was jumpstarted by Haughey, the University of Michigan product who has enjoyed a spectacular ISL season. A member of the D.C. Trident last year, Haughey can be considered the biggest free-agent pickup from the offseason, as she has flourished in the 100 free, 200 free and 400 free, along with in relay duty, for Energy coach James Gibson.

Aside from coming up with the fastest time in history, Energy Standard picked up significant points via the ISL’s Jackpot scoring system. By Jackpotting the fifth- through eighth-place relays, the franchise totaled 38 points in the event and jumped into a lead it never relinquished.

With Energy Standard headed for the championship round, it will have a chance to go even faster, and the room is there for improvement. Sjostrom has been sub-51 on a relay split this season and Heemskerk has also been sub-51 during her career. With additional rest for the final, look for Energy Standard to take its unofficial mark even lower.

Surging Seebohm

As Energy Standard secured victories in the first three events on the program, Emily Seebohm turned in her best performance of the season in the 200 backstroke. Benefiting from a strong back half, Seebohm touched the wall in 2:01.04. Really, the fact that Seebohm is racing at all for Energy is a major boon, considering what unfolded just before the start of the ISL season.

Facing pressure from its governing body, most of Australia’s premier athletes opted to skip the campaign in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seebohm, however, went against the norm and joined the Budapest Bubble, consequently bringing a much-needed backstroke punch to the defending champions.

When Seebohm climbed the blocks for the 200 back, she was preceded by victories in the 100 butterfly by Sarah Sjostrom and Chad Le Clos. Seeing the Energy team captains get the squad off to a positive start served as fuel for Seebohm.

“I always get so much motivation watching Sarah and Chad go before me, and that is motivation,” Seebohm said. “I definitely feel that Energy is ready for the semifinals. I know it’s only been a few days, but you can definitely feel (a different atmosphere).”

Leah Smith: A Perfect Season

Because the Tokyo Frog Kings are unlikely to advance to the ISL final, Leah Smith raced her final 400 freestyle of the campaign on Saturday, and she left the event in impressive fashion. The American, who raced for the L.A. Current in the inaugural ISL season, recorded a time of 3:58.26 to easily defeat Energy Standard’s Siobhan Haughey (4:00.10).

Smith’s victory enabled her to go 5-for-5 in the event this season, which has been the first for the expansion Frog Kings. The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist in the 400 freestyle will wrap up her season on Sunday with the 200 freestyle.

The Other Half

The second semifinal will be held on Sunday and Monday, with regular-season champion Cali Condors leading the four-team field. Unbeaten in its four meets, the Condors will be joined by the L.A. Current, Team Iron and the Toronto Titans. Competition in the second semifinal will be held at Noon (Eastern) on both days.