5 Big Things From Day 1 of ISL’s 2020 Match #4


We’re halfway through match #4 of the 2020 ISL season. Here’s a look at some of today’s key storylines.

Finally An Accurate Look at New-Look Breakers

It would have been easy to write off the New York Breakers. They were 8th among 8 teams last year, and finished 4th of 4 teams in the 2020 season opener, more than 150 points behind the next-closest team.

But we’ve continued to assert that a mostly-rebuilt Breakers team is clearly better than it was a year ago. We noted the difficulty of last week’s field and moved the Breakers up in our Power Ranks, into a spot that would yield a post-season berth.

The Breakers proved us right today, showing up with their best session yet. The Breakers are currently sitting second in team points, 11 points ahead of Iron, who we ranked 6th in league-wide Power Rankings.

They had a number of key swims. We’ll expand more on Marco Koch‘s massive 200 breast win below. Kasia Wasick jumped from relay-only status last week to winning the 50 free this week. Joe Litchfield was second in the 100 fly, 3rd in the 200 IM, 2nd in the 50 back and swam a key medley relay butterfly leg. And Abbie Wood was 2nd in a huge 200 IM finish. What’s especially notable is that the Breakers have powered their big day not through wins by star Michael Andrewbut with a much more well-rounded attack.

Getting Closer To Total Jackpot

NY Breaker Marco Koch hit the biggest jackpot we’ve seen yet in the ISL. The German national crushed a 2:00.81 in the 200 breast, rattling a world record and winning by almost four seconds. Koch hit the jackpot margin (5 seconds in that event) over 6 of the 8 swimmers in the field, stealing a whopping 21 points from his opponents for a massive 30-point event.

If Tommy Cope had swum a tick slower than he did last week, Koch would have completed the league’s first-ever total jackpot – a swim where the winner steals the points of all 7 opponents.

With the league so far showing some thin fields in men’s breaststroke, Koch is one to keep an eye on as we wait for the first-ever total jackpot.

Santos’ Huge IM Win

The 200 IM looked wide open today. Both of last week’s winners (Aqua Centurion Philip Heintz and LA Current’s Andrew Seliskar) swam in the other matchup this week, and both lost to Tokyo’s Kosuke Hagino. That opened up the field for Iron’s Leonardo Santoswho was second to Heintz last week.

But Santos didn’t just cruise against a weaker field. He went almost a full second faster than he was a week ago, winning in 1:52.84 and coming within a tenth of Heintz’ league-leading time. The men’s IMs don’t really have a clear-cut frontrunner the way the women’s do, and Santos is carrying on a rich Iron IM tradition by putting himself near the top of the league there moving forward.

Sakci Comes Up Clutch

The real powerhouse for Iron, though, has been breaststroker Emre SakciHe made waves last week by beating long course world record-holder Adam Peaty head to head. With Peaty on bye along with ISL leader Ilya Shymanovich, Sakci starred in match 4, crushing a 25.50 to unseat Shymanovich for the league’s best time.

In fact, with that swim, Sakci moves to #4 all-time in the event behind Cameron van der Burgh and Roland Schoeman. It was the #6 swim of all-time behind four from van der Burgh and one from Schoeman. With van der Burgh retired and Schoeman serving a doping suspension, Sakci is the fastest active swimmer in the world in this event.

But his contributions today went well beyond that 50 breast win (which also included jackpots of 5 of the 8 swimmers in the field). Sakci came directly off that 50 breast and anchored Iron’s 4×100 free relay – a very rare combination for a breaststroker. Sakci was an outstanding 46.99 on that split, outsplitting many primary sprint freestylers as Iron took second overall.

Sakci was also the difference-maker in the medley relay, outsplitting both Ian Finnerty and Caeleb Dressel by about two full seconds as Iron’s relay beat Finnerty’s DC team and Dressel’s Cali relay. Iron was slower than DC and Cali in both back and free, but still won the relay by nearly a full second.

That relay win is going to put Sakci in line for yet another massive contribution, as we expect Iron to pick the men’s 50 breaststroke as the stroke for tomorrow’s triple-points men’s skin race. Sakci is currently tied for second place in MVP points, and he could have a legitimate shot at meet MVP if he can win the skins with some jackpot points.

DC Can’t Quite Climb Jackpot Mountain

The DC Trident were the only team to go without an event win today. It wasn’t an awful showing for DC, but the jackpot points are really hurting the Trident by making their multiple second-place finishes much less impactful than an event win.

Here’s a look at all of DC’s runner-up finishes today, with the number of seconds behind the leader in parentheses:

Because the event winners often earn jackpot points, the difference between winning and taking second is much more than last year’s two-point difference. We went back to tally up those seven events, showing the scoring difference between the event winner and DC’s event runner-up.

Note: these aren’t team totals per event – it’s only the top-finishing swimmer for DC vs the top-finishing swimmer for the winning team.

DC points from runner-up Winner points
W 200 BK 7 19
M 200 BK 7 19
M 200 BR 7 30
W 4×100 FRR 14 20
M 200 IM 7 15
M 400 FR 7 12
M 4×100 MR 7 20
TOTALS 56 135

Under last year’s scoring system, a winner would earn two more points than a runner-up each time. So over seven events, the winner would outscore the runner-up by 14 points. This year, jackpot points have made that collective margin five times bigger. Event winners have scored almost triple what DC’s runners-up have scored, sometimes by winning an event by half a second or less.

That’s why the jackpot points have been such a controversial addition to the lineup this season. There’s a certain logic to weighting even wins highest, and the ISL has made clear it prioritizes racing and winning. But for many, the current jackpot system has swung too far in that direction. Today, no team felt the downside of that swing harder than the DC Trident.

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29 days ago

CAC could have won the medley but swam the wrong back and fly swimmers

tea rex
29 days ago

DC would have faired much better with the jackpots if they still had Ledecky running train on the 400 field.

28 days ago

DC is a solid team but needs a few stars – Simone and Katie perhaps???

28 days ago

They’re a mediocre team with some big name college stars from America that aren’t as good as the NCAA made them look when they come to race in short course meter

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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