Relay Successes, Depth Take DC Trident into Third in ISL Season 2 Debut

Linnea Mack and Amy Bilquist DC Trident ISL by Mike Lewis D5D_8477
D.C. Trident's Amy Bilquist, left, and Linnea Mack; Photo Courtesy: Mike Lewis/ISL

You could see it behind the block as Ky-Lee Perry brought home the mixed freestyle relay, or in the DC Trident team box as Linnea Mack dueled through the women’s skins race. The Trident weren’t near challenging the London Roar in their first match of the 2020 International Swimming League season. But the Trident found plenty to build on from their opener.

A solid Day 2 effort powered the Trident, the only American squad in the match, to third place, ahead of the short-handed Aqua Centurions. The biggest symbol of that effort came in the mixed relay, with the team of Zach Apple, Robert Howard, Margo Geer and Perry taking the win.

“It’s just so fun to get behind your teammates and give your energy to them after you put it all out there,” Apple said via Zoom conference. “And coming away with the win is super fun. We didn’t really get a chance to experience that last year in the ISL, so being able to start off the first meet with a win in one of the relays is super awesome.”


They really didn’t get a chance last year: In matches in Indianapolis, Naples and College Park in ISL’s inaugural season, the DC Trident didn’t come out on top in a single relay. The two-day Match 2 in 2020 provided not just a first victories (mixed relay and Amy Bilquist in the 200 backstroke), but three second-place finishes, bolstering the point total to get out of the basement and grab a crucial extra team point in the race for a semifinal berth.


D.C. Trident’s Amy Bilquist; Photo Courtesy: Mike Lewis/ISL

That wasn’t sealed until the skins race, with the Roar picking backstroke. It was a strength-in-numbers decision, opting not for 50 breaststroke champ Alia Atkinson but instead matching up Kira Toussaint (winner of the 100 back, second in the 200 back, third in the 50 back) and Maria Kameneva (second in the 50 back, third in the 50 free, fourth in the 50 fly) with DC’s Mack, who won the 50 back.

Mack gave it a go, advancing to the final where it took a sensational wall from Kameneva to beat her. But in Mack outlasting Toussaint and Ranomi Kromowidjojo in the semis, she took home 23 points to vault the Trident into third.

“Linnea at the end was amazing,” Apple said. “We were all in the box, super excited for her, and it was huge points for us to get into that third position, especially when we’re fighting for that semifinal spot. Those are the races that will take us to the semifinals. If we lose those, we know we’re going home a week early.”

Mark Nikolaev sealed third by advancing from the first round of the men’s skins, again backstroke, with neither Aqua Centurion progressing. It gave DC Trident 339 points to AC’s 335, capitalizing on a day of stellar relays. Apple in particular was sensational, setting the tone for Day 2 by winning the men’s 100 free in 45.74 for 12 points.

“Coming off those relay performances yesterday, I knew I could probably have a pretty good individual swim, definitely coming in thinking I was in the squad to win the race,” Apple said. “There was a stacked field as there will always be here, so super happy to come away with the W. It kind of set the tone for the whole team going into the session.”

With the 45.98 to lead off the mixed relay, Apple was under 46 seconds twice from flat starts. He went 45.43 to anchor the men’s medley relay, despite the Trident finishing sixth. In the men’s 400 free relay, he anchored with a 45.15 to claw his team from fourth to second. Only Aqua Centurion’s Alessandro Miressi joined him under 46 in that race.

The women battled to a pair of second-place finishes, via the 400 medley relay (Bilquist, Lindsey Kozelsky, Ting Wen Quah, Geer) and the 400 free relay (Perry, Mack, Quah, Bilquist).

The opener gave an indication of what the DC Trident will be this year. With the implementation of jackpot times for Season 2, high-end speed is ever more vital. The Trident lack that ability to steal points like Team Iron (Kromowidjojo, Katinka Hosszu) and the Roar (Adam Peaty, Atkinson, Christian Diener, Marie Wattel). Consequently, they didn’t have a single scorer in the top eight of the match, with Apple (34.5) and Mack (33.0) ninth and 10th, respectively. Pooling their talents via relays is a way to compensate, and they did that ably in the opener.

The top-end speed on last year’s roster is either elsewhere (Siobhan Haughey on Energy Standard) or opted out (Katie Ledecky). But Apple isn’t living in the past in Budapest.

“The biggest thing is that this season is not last season, so coming in with a fresh mindset, we have a fresh roster,” Apple said. “Most of the rosters got mixed up. So I think we were just coming in, not with expectations of, ‘Oh last year was this; this year is going to be the same.’ We are a strong team, and I think that mixing up the roster helped us a lot. We picked up a lot of good swimmers and we’re feeling good going into match two.”