2019 ISL Group A Match 1 – Day One Analysis + Day Two Preview


The first full day of the opening ISL match-up is now in the books, and there are a lot of things to take note of. One major observation from watching day one is the peculiar emphasis the ISL scoring format places on depth.

ISL Scoring Differences

Unlike a college dual meet, where winning is heavily awarded (9-4-3-2-1), the ISL format is more generous with lower-scoring places (9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1). Cumulative point totals throughout the meet are now more important than ever especially with the Las Vegas Finals spots on the line.

The Aqua Centurions got off to a strong start in team points with a 1-2 finish in the 50 breast from elite Italian breaststrokers Nicolo Martinenghi and Fabio Scozzoli. Those 16 points, along with 13 points earned from the men’s 100 fly, put the Italian-based team into the early lead after the first 4 events.

The Cali Condors proved formidable in the 400 IMs, with the team’s second swimmer in each race (Hali Flickinger/Anton Ipsen), both finishing in 4th place. While not as eye-popping, both of Flickinger and Ipsen’s efforts earned 10 points, totaling 26 points when added to Melanie Margalis‘ win (9 pts) and Mark Szaranek‘s runner-up finish (7 pts).

Energy Standard is a team that can easily find themselves in a winning position, as they won 10 of the 19 events –including all three relays– on Saturday. However, with the ISL format it’s all about the team effort. Evgeny Rylov, for example, crushed the men’s 200 back after the first break but teammate Maxim Stupin finished below the minimum time standard and deducted one point, giving Energy Standard only 8 points from the event.

Utilizing Team Strengths

After the first half of the entire matchup, it is evident where each team’s strengths lie. The Cali Condors have impressive depth, not just in event representation but the plethora of versatile swimmers who can hop in virtually any event. Flickinger swam the 400 IM/200 back on Saturday, yet her primary event is the 200 fly. In a similar manner, King can cover the 50/100 breast as well as the 200 breast.

On the other hand, teams like Energy Standard focused more on picking up the top dogs who can cruise to a first place finish. A prime example of their sprint strength was in the 50 free events, where the team swept both genders’ events.

The streak kicked off with a 1-2 finish from World record-holder Florent Manaudou and former World champion Ben Proud, just the third 1-2 sweep of the day. Then, after winning the 100 fly, Sarah Sjostrom became the first double-event winner in ISL history with her victory in the 50 free. Sjostrom’s sprint wins added 18 points to Energy Standard’s total.

Then, the men’s 400 medley relay featured an unstoppable quartet who finished 4 seconds ahead of their nearest competitor. The relay implemented world champions Kliment Kolesnikov and Chad le Clos, along with World medalist Ilya Shymanovich and Olympic finalist Simonas Bilis. Their 4th-place finishing B-relay also utilized 200 back champ Rylov and Anton Chupkov, another world champion and Olympic medalist.

Making up For Team Weaknesses

So, you have the Condors’ incredible depth and the Energy Standard’s star-studded roster. But for the DC Trident and Aqua Centurions, success did not come quite as easily. Yes, the Trident and Centurions have talented swimmers who are vital assets, but it is incomparable to that of the Condors or Energy Standard.

After Litherland’s 400 IM win, it wasn’t until the women’s 200 free to kick off session 3 that the DC Trident saw a win thanks to Siobhan Haughey. Even then, Katie Ledecky saw two runner-up finishes (400 IM/200 free), which contributes just 14 points to Trident’s point total.

For the Aqua Centurions, their roster does not quite cover all events to ensure a comfortable level of depth. After three 7-8 finishes, two of which scored zero points due to the minimum time standard failure, the team was desperate to gain ground after their early lead.

It was then during the second break that the Centurions made a quick swap in the men’s 200 free, replacing versatile Travis Mahoney with accomplished freestyler Breno Correia. This turned out well in the end for the Centurions as Correia and Poul Zellmann finished 1-2 and picked up 16 points, practically making up for their previous event finishes. This is the kind of drama we were all hoping for, and as the sport and its coverage evolve, these are the kind of things that fans can hang their hats on. For now, that swap was probably not known to everyone except those reading the SwimSwam live recap, but these are the kind of things that make this format unique in all of swimming history, and the opportunities that the league should be counting on.

Day Two Preview

Currently, Energy Standard (250 pts) has an extensive 20.5-point lead over the Cali Condors (229.5 pts). In the race for third place, the Aqua Centurions (163.5) only trail behind the DC Trident (165 pts) by 1.5 points. Here are tomorrow’s contested events in case you missed it:

  • 100 free
  • 100 breast
  • 400 free
  • 4×100 medley relay (women)
  • -break-
  • 200 IM
  • 50 fly
  • 100 back
  • 4×100 mixed free relay
  • -break-
  • 200 fly
  • 50 free skins
  • 4×50 mixed medley relay (if tiebreaker needed)

With the Aqua Centurions currently in last place after day one, the Italy-based team will need to place high emphasis on their strengths. On Saturday, the team underperformed in the women’s freestyle events. While the women have backstroke talent Margherita Panziera, it is just not enough to pick up adequate points.

Instead, the team will need to heavily rely on the male sprinters of the crew. With the help of Martinenghi/Scozzoli (BR), Simone Sabbioni (BK), Condorelli/Rivolta (sprint FL/FR), and Laszlo Cseh in the 200 IM/FL, the Centurions have a great opportunity to come back from day one.

For the DC Trident, Ledecky has a shot at utilizing her powerful endurance in the 400 free. Meanwhile, Cody Miller and Ian Finnerty will have an opportunity to show off their sprint breaststroke in the 100 breast event. IMers Abrahm DeVine and Litherland, as well as distance specialist Zane Grothe and 200 fly specialist Zach Harting also have a shot at showing their strengths.

One DC Trident member to keep an eye on is Zach Apple, who has point scoring opportunities in the 100 free, mixed free relay, and the 50 free skins event. Speaking of the skins event, the Energy Standard squad will once again have a chance to flash off their sprint depth.

It is a no-brainer Sjostrom will be in the skins event, as well as potentially Dutch sprinter Femke Heemskerk. For the men, Proud and Manaudou should have a good showing as well following their 50 free performance on day one.

The Cali Condors, on a different note, may need to rely on their versatile athletes to make up points in other events. Viable skins swimmers should include Bowe Becker and Justin Ress along with the likes of Olivia SmoligaMallory Comerford, and/or Kelsi Dahlia. With yet another plethora of events for Sunday’s competition, it will be up to versatile studs Flickinger (FL/IM), Margalis (IM/FR), Szaranek (IM/FL), John Shebat (IM/BK), Mitch Larkin (IM/BK), and mutli-distance freestyle Townley Haas to come after the Energy Standard crew.

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1 year ago

I watched the ESPN coverage – much lacking. They need to emphasize the team scoring aspect, give viewers an updated team score after each event with explanation of how the event affected the scores, and let viewers know who’s in the pool during the race, not just who’s in the lead. The potential is there, but they’re not there yet.

More like ISN'TL am I right
Reply to  hambone
1 year ago

You are kinder than I. Between the problems you listed (especially not showing who was in the pool) and the fact that the designs/graphics looked like a bad knockoff of, like, an arcade game, it was pretty tough to watch

Reply to  hambone
1 year ago

Yeah what’s up with them only giving the winners time? And the problems that you mentioned were problems associated with the announcers. I did find it annoying with like the relays today that I had no clue who was swimming what for which team.
On the other hand, the coverage was much more appealing than the boring Pro Swim series videos and FINA streams. There were lots of fancy graphics and the fast pace of the events was a lot more interesting.

1 year ago

I could have missed something somewhere but what is a 50 skins event??

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

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