2019 ISL Budapest Preview: Change Could Be Brewing For Second Place


  • Group B, Match 2
  • Saturday, October 26 – Saturday, October 27, 2019
  • 6:00-8:00 PM Local Time – UTC+2 (12:00-2:00 PM, U.S. Eastern Time)
  • Duna Arena, Budapest, Hungary
  • Short Course Meters (SCM) format
  • ESPN3 Live Stream Links:
  • Group B: Iron, LA Current, London Roar, New York Breakers

As we did with Group A, we’ll go team-by-team in Group B, projecting areas each team could move up from last week’s opening match. Some roster additions and subtractions have an intense battle brewing for second place.

London Roar

The rich get richer. London adds three stars after winning last week by 27.5. Here’s where they could improve:

Move from ‘great’ to ‘dominant’ in men’s breaststrokes: London already outscored all other teams in the men’s breaststrokes with 35 points. (LA had 34). But that was without Adam Peaty in the mix. Peaty should be the heavy favorite to win both the 50 and 100, though it’s worth noting his turns and pullouts are not his strength, and he’s not as unbeatable a target in short course as he is in long course. Peaty has also been sneaky-good in the 200 over his career when he’s focused on it. He may need to be great there, replacing Matthew Wilson, who won the 200 in Lewisville.

Fix the men’s fly races with James GuyLondon was downright bad in the men’s butterflys, going 7-8 in the 50, 5-8 in the 100, and 5-8 again in the 200. James Guy should be an excellent addition there – at the very least, he’s a better entrant than backstroker Christian Diener in the 100 and freestyler Elijah Winnington in the 200. Maybe the biggest impact is the men’s medley relay, where Cameron McEvoy split 53.0 in a spot-start fly leg. Guy’s lifetime-best in short course is 50.6, which would move London up considerably.

Figure out where to use Mireia BelmonteThe Spanish star is the world record-holder in the short course 200 fly and 400 IM (and 800/1500 free, but those don’t really matter in the ISL format). She’s had some health issues in recent years, but has always been an absolute workhorse in terms of tough event combos and busy meet sessions. Two areas she could be a key addition: the 200 IM (where breaststroker Taylor McKeown filled in last week but missed the benchmark time badly and scored no points) and 200 fly (where London went 7-8 with Marie Wattel missing the benchmark time).

LA Current

Fix the women’s breaststrokes: this was a major depth issue last week. LA had to use backstroker Kathleen Baker as its second entrant in the 50 and IMer Bailey Andison in the 100/200, yielding three 7th-place finishes. Annie Lazor was good (1st in the 200, 3rd in the 100) in her primary events, but just doesn’t have the speed to contend in the 50, where she was 6th. Enter Jhennifer Conceicaoa Brazilian speedster who should be much better in the 50 and 100. She’s also likely an improvement to the medley relays (the B team lost to London’s B by a second) and should allow Andison to focus on the IMs in relief of the absent Ella Eastin.

Find a better balance between the relays & the skins: the main balance we’re talking about here is between the mixed free relay and the skins race, which happen pretty close to one another on the final day. LA took the strategy of rest and relying on depth: they held out all four of their skins entrants from the mixed relay to keep them fresh for the triple-point skins race. On the men’s side, that was the right call: Nathan Adrian made the skins final and the sprint depth was still great on the relays. For the women, though, LA went 4-5 in the skins and left off two 52-second legs from their mixed relays. Granted, one relay was DQ’d anyways, but if LA can keep that relay legal in Budapest, they’re probably better off seeing the loaded women’s skins field (Kromowidjojo and both London entrants are almost locks for the top 4) and putting all their rest on Geer, using Beryl Gastaldello on the mixed relay or maybe trying Aly Tetzloff in the skins.

Press the backstroke advantage: For a team with Ryan Murphy, Matt Grevers, Kathleen Baker and Amy Bilquistcoming out of Lewisville with just one backstroke win was a major whiff. Yeah, Murphy and Grevers were solid with 2-3 finishes in both the 50 and 100, but losing those races to London’s Guilherme Guido was a major factor in losing last week by 27.5. Baker is gone this week, so they’ll need to lean on Bilquist more in the women’s races, where Minna Atherton swept for London. Murphy’s got to find a way to beat Guido somewhere, and LA needs to find a second 200 back entrant – Tom Shields was carrying this team with seven swims including all three relays, but a 6th-place 200 back seemed like a poor use of his energy, especially with the men’s medley relay shortly thereafter.


Use Katinka Hosszu more: the Iron captain and effective namesake of the team is known worldwide for her ability to dominate in multi-swim sessions – it’s how she made a small fortune on the World Cup and suits her extremely well for the ISL format. Perhaps testing the waters early, Iron used Hosszu in exactly one swim per session. She won three events with ease: the 400 IM by three seconds, the 200 IM by one and the 200 fly by one-and-a-half. Meanwhile her third-place 200 back was three seconds ahead of fourth. That suggests Iron could try to increase Hosszu’s workload. A few strong possibilities:

  • Women’s free relay: it’s a brutal double with the 400 IM, though the whole men’s 400 IM sits in between. But Hosszu has to be an improvement for relays that went 6-8 and had three 55s in the mix. Hosszu’s career-best is 52.1, though she really hasn’t swum the event much.
  • 100 free: if Hosszu could even be within a second of her best, she’d be a big upgrade. Her career-best would have gotten 3rd; Iron took 8th with Kim Busch.
  • 100 back or mixed free relay: these two are back-to-back in the same session as the 200 IM, so both are probably not an option. Hosszu’s lifetime-best 55.0 would have won the 100 back. She’s probably not going to be that fast late in the meet, but with Kathleen Baker out, Hosszu has a chance to be top-4, which took 58.0 in Lewisville. Iron took 8th in that event and almost missed the benchmark time. The mixed free relay is basically the same concept as the women’s free relay: Hosszu has to be comparable to or faster than a bunch of 54s and 55s, and Iron took 6th and 7th only due to a DQ to LA.

Dominate distance: Iron is set up to be outstanding in the distance races. That’s an undervalued discipline in the ISL format, so Iron really has to have a huge degree of dominance for it to overcome their sprint depth weakness. Henrik Christiansen could be a key there. His career-best 400 (3:36.6) from last December should make him a challenger to Winnington, and Iron could have two of the top three. David Verraszto is another chief addition – he could win the 400 IM, where Iron went 2-3 last time but lost 13-14 to LA.

Get a third swimmer into round 2 of skins: Things went about as well as they could have at the top in the skins, with Iron winning both men’s and women’s titles. But for a program struggling for sprinters, Iron was surprisingly close to having a third swimmer in the semis, where the points double. Kim Busch was 24.37 in the individual 50. A day later, she was 24.54 in the skins. It only took 24.22 to take fourth in the opening round and move on. If anyone tries to ‘game’ the format a little and hold back some energy in the first round, Busch could sneak in and up her point total from 2 (for 7th) to 10 (for 4th). For the men, they could hope that Pieter Timmers can get back towards the 21.30 he put up in 2017 – it took 21.31 to make top four in Lewisville.

New York Breakers

Pick Michael Andrew‘s spots more carefully: admittedly, this is almost the exact opposite of the route we just laid out for Hosszu, so maybe she finds that adding an event brings down all of her swims, or Andrew drops one event only to feel underused. Still, you couldn’t help but feel like the meet started to go pear-shaped for New York in the first two events, when Andrew faded to 4th in the 100 fly and came right back in a brutal double to fall to 7th in the 50 breast, an event he had a shot to win based on his career-best. The fatigue seemed to snowball for Andrew, who then took 4th in the 50 free before being relegated to the B medley relay. Maybe the secret is to let Andrew get some momentum and confidence going early before amping up his events. He could be extremely valuable in the ISL swimming straight 50s, and only crossing over into the 100s where the matchups make it worthwhile.

Cut down on the benchmark penalties: by our count, New York lost 8 points to benchmark penalties in Lewisville. That wasn’t exactly the 123.5-point difference between them and Iron, but it’ll make a difference down the road if things ever get close, here or at the American derby. Some of that is trying to enter swimmers more in primary events (rather than using versatile types to fill out lineups), but some is the team showing up much more prepared to swim in Budapest.

Figure out the relay lineups: there was some feeling out during the first meet of exactly how fast everyone would be in the ISL format. A few of New York’s relays looked ‘split,’ though it’s hard to say if that was intentional, or more a product of some big names swimming slower than expected. The women’s medley would have been 2nd overall, had they used Lia Neal (53.6 leadoff) or Ali Deloof (53.1 split) on the A instead of Gabby Deloof (54.0 split). They also have to find another backstroker for the women’s medleys: Tayla Lovemore was four seconds slower than most of the field, and she’s not really a backstroker. Maybe Catie Deloof is the answer (she’s 52.7 in yards) after New York unsuccessfully tried both of her sisters in various backstroke races. (Ali was pretty good in the 50/100, but a disaster in the 200; Gabby wasn’t very effective in the 100 or 200 and it seemed to set her back in the 200 free, too).


Projected Finish Order

  1. London Roar
  2. Iron
  3. LA Current
  4. New York Breakers

The Roar just look too good to lose. They might actually be primed to give Energy Standard a good run for its money – the European derby is going to be a blast.

The Aqua Centurions were much, much better in their home nation than they were in the U.S. in week 1. It’ll be worth watching to see whether Iron gets the same type of ‘home pool’ advantage that the Centurions got. For what it’s worth, several Iron swimmers mentioned how engaged the Hungarian fans are expected to be this week. ‘Home pool’ is a little less concrete than what’s really driving our projections: the addition of the three key swimmers for Iron (Verraszto, Christiansen, Ugolkova) and the loss of four major ones for LA (Baker, Eastin, Licon, Josa).

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1 year ago

Why isn’t NY Breakers using Madi Wilson in backstroke, since they’re struggling so much there? Granted this was a while ago, but she did get silver at the 2015 World Championships in the 100m backstroke.

Reply to  BairnOwl
1 year ago

Any idea why Madi’s backstroke times dropped off after 2015? I guess she decided to focus more on freestyle?

Miss M
Reply to  Troyy
1 year ago

A cynic might say: easier option to make the team in freestyle … and win Olympic gold.

Miss M
Reply to  BairnOwl
1 year ago

She did place 2nd in the 200 and 3rd in the 100 free, which would have been hard doubles with the backstroke and relays she was in, but I agree, even not at top backstroke form Madi seems a better option

1 year ago

London Roar should also splits their women’s relays better to get more points. They stacked the A relays too much for the 4×100 medley and the 4×100 mixed free. Their A relays won by large margins while their B relays could have moved up in the ranking if they’d swapped a couple swimmers around. They should always put C1 at the end of the B relay, since she’s incredibly good at relays and could make up a lot of ground.

Reply to  BairnOwl
1 year ago

Relying on C1 to lay down massive splits instead of her just cruising could have negative consequences elsewhere.

Reply to  Troyy
1 year ago

But then again she anyways didn’t have much left in the tank for skins …

Miss M
Reply to  Verena
1 year ago

The medley relay answer is to swim Minna on the B team. London would then have finished 2nd and 3rd. If Cate could have swam just 0.5 faster, they’d be 1 and 3.

1 year ago

Michael Andrew is overrated…

Reply to  DATO
1 year ago

He’s clearly showing that he’s not ready to be a Professional Swimmer yet.

Reply to  CraigH
1 year ago

He is professional but not ready when nearly every big gun are there.
Back? Not. Breast? Not. Fly? Not. Free? Not.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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