2020 ISL Match 4 – Day 1 Live Recap


The Cali Condors, DC Trident, Iron and NY Breakers are set to battle in Budapest, with the four squads hoping to get an edge over the all-league leader of the LA Current.

After match 3, the Condors are tied for 2nd place with London Roar, with Iron next in line at 4th, while DC Trident is well back, ranked 7th. NY Breakers have the most work to do, currently ranked last in the league heading into this match #4.

Recap: Retta Race, Analysis: Jared Anderson


  • DC Trident – 1 & 2
  • Cali Condors – 3 & 4
  • Iron – 5 & 6
  • NY Breakers – 7 & 8



It’s a big start for the New York Breakers, who are clearly a better team than their current 10th-place in the point standings indicates. Breakers newcomer Surkova picks up a huge win over Cali’s Dahlia, who was the league’s fastest 100 flyer for all of last season.

Surkova’s 56.49 will crack the top 5 in league standings so far this season and falls just .10 outside of the Russian national record. The Breakers went 1-3 and will take the early points lead. They’ll mostly be battling Iron and DC, who combined for the bottom four finishes in this opening event.


Dressel got beat in this race last week, but he showed up with a vengeance today. Dressel’s 49.35 improves his #2-ranked time in the ISL so far this season, and he’s just .05 off of what Tom Shields has been in the league so far this year. Dressel gets the triple jackpot, stealing points from two Trident swimmers and one Iron swimmer.

Again, New York shows up well. Litchfield was second overall, and Poprawa came in fifth, avoiding the jackpot margin by a few tenths of a second. DC will be hurting for points early after going 7-8 here and getting all their points stolen.

Of note, Litchfield’s 50.34 now makes him the 3rd fastest British swimmer of all-time in this event, while Wang hit a new Taiwanese national record.


You could call it an NCAA rematch in this one. Wisconsin alum Nelson torched the back half of the race and swam by early leader Bilquist (a Cal alum) underwater. Nelson went 2:01.31 to take over the #1 time in the entire ISL this season and earn her first win as an ISL rookie.

It’s a points windfall for Cali, which went 1-3 with Nelson jackpotting the bottom half of the field in her best time by over a second and a half. DC’s Bilquist was second in 2:01.72 – that was also faster than the previous league-best time set by Toronto’s Lisa Bratton two days ago.


It’s been a back-and-forth between Kawecki and LA’s Ryan Murphy. Kawecki won match 1 with the league’s best time, only to see Murphy top that time two days ago in match 3. Now, Kawecki retakes the ISL record in a 1:48.23, two tenths faster than Murphy’s time. Last year, no one in the ISL was better than 1:48.81, so we’re seeing leaguewide improvement in this race.

Jackpots have been a huge factor so far. Kawecki stole points from four swimmers, and Iron’s Basseto missed the cutoff time and will lose further points. Cali is surging with the jackpots, but New York has done a nice job playing jackpot defense – they get both swimmers inside the jackpot margin here to keep their points, and it’s helping them build a lead over Iron and DC.


Lilly King has built one of the ISL’s most legendary streaks – she’s now 22-for-22 in event wins for her ISL career. King went out with a blitzkrieg strategy in this 200 breast, leaving the field in her wake with a 1:05.05 opener. But where she faded a little last week from what looked like a massive jackpot, King held on even better this week, going 2:16.04 for the new ISL record.

King was a full second better than she was last week, which is scary for her prospects in the 50 and 100 breaststrokes later on this week.

King jackpotted three swimmers at the bottom, including both Iron entrants, who are more 50 specialists. The Breakers were 2nd and 4th, with Emily Escobedo putting up a nice swim in second.


Koch very nearly broke the world record, hitting what was easily his best swim since 2016. Koch went 2:00.4 four years ago, and it looked to many as if his peak were behind him. But the German 200-breast specialist has had an incredible start to the ISL season, winning both 200 breaststrokes he’s swim so far. Koch crushes his own time from last week (2:02.12) as well as the 2020 ISL leader Anton McKee’s 2:01.73 from two days ago.

Koch was just a hair away from the league’s first-ever total jackpot. He stole points from 8 of the 10 swimmers in the field, with Tommy Cope the only swimmer within five seconds of him. His 30 point haul is the first of its size in the ISL this season. That’s a giant swing for the Breakers, who seem to be taking their opportunity this week against a weaker field than the murderer’s row they faced in match #1.


The time was actually slower than last week (3:29.87), but the point result was better for Cali. The Condors get the win here in 3:30.09. Allison Schmitt was 52.15 for the best split of the entire field, and that bodes well for Cali’s decision to use her as a medley relay anchor later this session. Cali did have straight 52s to show roster depth in this relay, but the field as a whole wasn’t as good as last week’s match 1, where Energy Standard and the LA Current combined for three splits below 52. No one broke 52 on their split in today’s field.

DC had a great swim, going about half a second faster than their swim last week. They switched out two of four legs from last week’s A relay and got a 52.4 from Margo Geer, who didn’t swim this relay last week. One more notable split: Iron’s Ranomi Kromowidjojo led off in 52.34 for the field’s best opening leg.

We also saw a relatively rare relay jackpot – New York’s B relay missed the ten-second jackpot margin by quite a bit and will lose their two points.


Dressel is getting back on track this week after he was a bit off his game on day 1 last week. The Condor gets his second win in the first four individual men’s events so far, going 20.69. He’s still the #2 performer in the ISL so far this season – Energy Standard’s Florent Manaudou went 20.63 in beating Dressel last week. Energy is on bye this week.

Cali gets the 1-2 finish with Ress going a quick 21.06. sub-20 swims have been rare so far this year, but Ress has been on the cusp twice.

DC’s Zach Apple has been solid and took third, but they also tried Robert Howard here in a lineup switch from last week, and he faded to 8th, six tenths slower than Meiron Cheruti was last week. It was also the week 2 debut for Breakers captain Michael Andrew, who was just 5th here for the second-straight week, though he was two tenths faster than last week.


Last week, the NY Breakers chose to use Kasia Wasick as a relay-only swimmer on day 1, holding her out of this 50 free. This week, they took a drastically different route, holding Wasick off of the relay and swimming her in the 50 free. We’re going to say this week’s strategy was the correct one, as Wasick exploded for a dominant win. She was 23.43 to supplant Sarah Sjostrom (23.48) as the 2020 ISL leader. Wasick’s time would have put her 3rd in the league for the entirety of the 2019 season. She gets two jackpot steals while beating last week’s match 2 MVP Kromowidjojo by almost half a second en route to a new Polish national record.

Despite Kromowidjojo losing an event where she was favored, Iron got solid points here with a 2-3 finish. Kromowidjojo and Henique were 1-2 in their match last week and are looking like a dominant sprinting force. Iron is currently in last place, but made up major ground on DC with that swim, while the Breakers have taken over second place by a wide margin. Cali continues to lead, but their margin over NY (34.5 points) is smaller than New York’s margin over DC (47.5).

MEN’S  200 IM

Most of the league’s top performers are either on bye or competed in the first match this weekend. That opened things up for Iron’s Leonardo Santos to win his team’s first event of match 4. Santos was 1:52.84, which is a lot faster than he was last week – by almost a second. In fact, Santos’ time would have won two of the three matches so far, and sits second in the league by just a tenth behind Aqua Centurion Philip Heintz (1:52.78).  Santos took advantage of a weak field to nab three jackpot steals, one from each of the opposing teams.

DC’s Abrahm Devine took a DQ last week, but got on the board this time in second at 1:53.63. Cali struggled a bit here, as their men have had some trouble filling in the non-Dressel events. They were just 4th and 7th here.


Melanie Margalis is the league leader this season, and she rolled to another win in 2:04.32. That’s three tenths slower than she was last week, but still won by more than a second and bested any other swimmer in the ISL this season by more than a second as well.

New York Breaker Wood was second, taking a half-second off of last week’s swim and moving to #3 in the league so far this season. But the Breakers also saw Renshaw take last and get her points stolen.

Cali will take a big points haul, jackpotting two swimmers with a 1-3 finish, and DC got both of their swimmers in under the jackpot margin. One big note: world record-holder Katinka Hosszu was just 6th, avoiding the jackpot margin by just a tenth of a second to keep her points. Hosszu was third – and a second and a half faster – last week.


Iron’s Sakci remains undefeated in the 50 breast so far this year, and his massive 25.50 rockets him to #1 in the league this season. By comparison, this week’s other meet saw no swimmers under 26 seconds. Sakci takes over the ISL record, which was set at 25.62 last year by Aqua’s Scozzoli. Sakci also jackpotted five of the eight swimmers in a huge break for Iron.

It was probably the best swim so far for Breaker Andrew, who was second in 26.02 and very nearly joining the two men this year who have gone sub-26 in ISL competition. Cali used Dressel here and he was third, a solid showing, and he avoided the jackpot margin to give Cali at least some points in the absence of star breaststroker Nic Fink.


Make it 23-for-23 for Lilly King. The Cali Condor was 29.16 to win handily here, though it’s three tenths slower than she was last week. Last year, Cali was dominant in the women’s 50 breast, going 1-2 regularly. They’ve been 1st and 3rd in both meets so far this year, and this time it was Iron’s Hulkko who snuck in there for second. Hulkko was actually a tick slower than last week, and Cali’s Hannis went a half-second slower than she was a week ago.

Iron got a much better result than in the 200 breast, where Hulkko and Laukkanen went 6-7 and got jackpotted. They were 2-4 here, showing their strength in sprint breaststroke as opposed to the 200-meter distance.


Cali was much-improved from last week, going 2.1 seconds faster and taking the win. That’s been a trend around the league, with most of the top teams getting faster in this relay in match 3. Cali got a 46.3 anchor from Caeleb Dressel to power away with the win, but like their women, it was lineup depth that did the trick – Cali had all four men go 46 on their splits, including a 46.8 leadoff from Kacper Majchrzak.

Iron was second, and breaststroker Emre Sakci has extremely impressive with a 46.99 anchor leg coming off of the 50 breast just one event earlier. (Dressel swam the same combo for Cali).

DC’s Zach Apple wasn’t quite as dominating as last week, where he was hitting 45 multiple times. But he had the field’s best leadoff in 46.21 as DC took third.

Once again, the Breakers got hit with a relay jackpot. Those have been relatively rare this ISL season. New York’s B-relay was almost 13 seconds behind the leaders with two splits over 50 seconds.


Smoliga stays undefeated here, yet another Cali Condor woman who has swept event wins across two meets so far. Smoliga was two tenths off her huge swim from last week, but remains the top performer in the ISL in this event by a longshot. She’s been 25.7 and 25.9, and no one else has been better than 26.3.

Iron was solid with a 2-3 finish, and they’re making a huge charge on the New York Breakers, cutting the margin to just four points between the two teams for second. Smoliga jackpotted three swimmers, including both DC Trident. DC’s Linnea Mack was a disappointing 7th here after winning match 2 and making the skins final last week.


Ress was two tenths faster while taking second last week, but with world-beater Ryan Murphy not in the field, Ress took advantage for the win. He held off Breaker Joe Litchfield, who has had an outstanding season so far and was just a tenth behind Ress.

DC once again got hit with a jackpot as Devine was 8th. In the battle for second, the Breakers expanded their lead a bit over Iron, going 2-6 compared to Iron’s 3-7.


Cali pulled week 1 winner Margalis out of the mix and still managed to go 1-2. That’s courtesy of a huge showing by Haley Anderson, the distance specialist who went 4:00.24 for second. Flickinger was third last week and improved by more than three seconds to pick up the win for the Cali women, who have been a dominant force so far in the ISL. Flickinger joins Margalis as the only two women this season to break four minutes in the event.

It’s becoming rare to not see a jackpot finish, but that was the case here with a pretty wide 9.4-second jackpot margin. The New York Breakers continued to outpace Iron, going 3-5 compared to Iron’s 4-7. DC continues to miss Katie Ledecky, who was the league leader last year at 3:54.06, but who is sitting out this season.DC was 6th and 8th, though they avoided getting jackpotted out of any points.


Auboeck had a solid third-place swim last week, overshadowed by a Rapsys win. But Auboeck stole the spotlight today, going 3:37.48 to blow away Rapsys’ league-leading 3:39.3. In fact, Auboeck set an ISL record here, as last year’s top time in the entire league was a 3:38.3 from London’s Elijah Winnington. With most of last year’s top performers not competing this year (Winnington, Milak, McLoughlin, Christiansen), this event feels fairly wide open, and Auboeck just added his name to the top contenders’ list.

It’s been an outstanding day for New York, in fact, probably their best performance in the league’s brief history. The Breakers go 1-4 here with two jackpots, including a key jackpot of Iron’s 8th-placer Santos. That’s going to keep New York in the team points lead heading into the relays. DC really needed a big event, and Zane Grothe’s 3:39.34 helps a lot. DC was 2-3 here.



This race was wide open, with the four teams competing today hovering around the very bottom of the ISL ranks in the men’s medley relay after week 1. Iron cut 2.3 seconds from last week’s swim to pull the key win. The difference-maker was Emre Sakci, who took advantage of a very weak breaststroke field with a 56.1 split – no one else was within six tenths of him, and the second and third place relays lost two full seconds on that leg. Iron also got a 50.48 from Nicholas Santos on fly, the second-best fly leg of the field.

The field here was relatively weak, though. Iron would have been just 4th in the other match this week.

DC took second on a massive 45.4 anchor split from Zach Apple. He’s been incredible so far this season and took DC from 5th to 2nd over the course of his leg.

Cali chose to use Caeleb Dressel on breaststroke, where he was just 58.1. They did have Kacper Majchrzak go 46.0 anchoring, but the Condors fell to third.

Looking on to tomorrow, we’d expect Iron to look at breaststroke as a potential men’s skin race option. Sakci won the 50 breast today and we’ve noted how dry the field is among true breaststrokers. Iron is pretty strong (and deeper) in freestyle, where they went 4-6 today. But it feels like everyone in the field wants to avoid Dressel’s skins dominance, and breaststroke is one of the few strokes where Iron has a real shot to beat Dressel and reap the jackpot rewards.


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2 years ago

Great article! Frustration with live coverage of ISL events, with agonizing close-ups and no attention to times. Producers seem to attempt a media circus presentation. I suspect the audience leans toward more dedicated swimming fans who might appreciate seeing the entire field, and wants to know the times and how they stack up. But this article puts the focus right on the sweet spot!

2 years ago

What is going on with Hosszu?

Never seen her struggling to race like this before.

Margalis Stan
2 years ago

I feel kinda bad for Kelly Fertel. She’s just on the sidelines for the whole time without swimming. She may not be the fastest, but she’s very versatile and Cali should defs use her in at least SOMETHING.

Reply to  Margalis Stan
2 years ago

She’s also getting paid $15,000 and getting to train in what is presently the best training environment in the world. So, it’s not all bad.

Remember that there are limits – teams can’t use all swimmers in any given meet. 2 are relay only, and 2 can’t participate, for each gender, for each team.

So, to put her in events, they’d have to pull someone out.

Reply to  Margalis Stan
2 years ago

I feel like a lot of people are just “happy to be there $$$$”

Michael Schwartz
2 years ago

Cali chose to use Caeleb Dressel on breaststroke, where he was just 58.1. They did have Kacper Majchrzak go 56.0 anchoring, but the Condors fell to third.

He went 46.0 on the anchor, not 56.0

Reply to  Michael Schwartz
2 years ago

The best splits they’d been able to get out of that relay previously were 59.0 and 59.2, so a 58.1 is a sizeable improvement, and consider also that was his 5th event of the day (Take notes, Tokyo). What they probably should have done was move Cieslak to swim fly on the A relay. He’s been a pretty solid utility hitter for Cali, and not surprisingly, he was about a second faster than Stewart was on the A relay. Also, Machrzak’s anchor split was actually a few tenths faster than Dressel was on the free relay, so it was the right decision to keep him there.

2 years ago

Late to the party today, but again, the jackpot concept is such a sham. If only 4 to MAYBE 6 swimmers score in each event, why even enter all eight? Why the ISL hadn’t just copied and pasted a shorted NCAA structure is beyond me. Getting 7th and 8th should always have value, and letting superstars take large chunks of points/money, particularly WITHOUT being evenly mixed into each team, removes the ONLY reason this league was created; to give the career Olympic trial finalist/worlds prelim/semis swimmers a chance to make enough money to train. Of course Dressel and king are the best in their events, that could be made known to viewers in other ways than “btw, they’re so good… Read more »

Reply to  Ragnar
2 years ago

You are such a whiner

2 years ago

Dressel looking especially cut, even for Dressel!

2 years ago

A breaststroke skins round 2 tomorrow with Sacki, Koch, Andrew, and Dressel would be absolute appointment-to-view TV

2 years ago

Grothe perfectly even split the 400: 1:49.67/1:49.67!

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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