Breaking Down Day 1 of The ISL’s 2020 Season Opener


The 2020 season opener moved at a breakneck pace – and the lack of true live results left a lot of major storylines and developments overlooked.

We’re going back over the session for a few of the really notable storylines to check in on moving forward.

Maxime Rooney‘s Big Day

The LA Current won both men’s relays, and a big part was the strong swimming of Maxime RooneyThe University of Texas grad was on the cusp of some massive NCAA swims last year, but saw that meet canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic. He’s picking up right where he left off, though, in his professional debut. Here’s a look at all of Rooney’s swims today:

  • 100 fly – 3rd place – 49.84
  • 100 free (free relay split) – 46.37
  • 100 free (medley relay split) – 45.86

Those are outstanding swims. Rooney’s lifetime-best in the 100-yard free (41.74) converts roughly to a 46.3 in short course meters. And his career-best 100-yard fly (44.83) converts roughly to 49.7. So it’s safe to say Rooney is effectively swimming right at his lifetime-bests in the season opener for the ISL.

When Cali was Bad, they were Bad

When the new jackpot rule was announced, many saw it as a boost to the Cali Condors – who boast superstars like Caeleb Dressel or Lilly Kingwho can win by huge margins. But what no one accounted for was how the jackpot rules would hurt a Cali roster that is marked by peaks and valleys on the men’s side.

When Cali was good, they were good – and their women continued to be the powerhouse of the league. But the Condor men had a handful of brutal performances. Here’s a look at the worst events for the Condor men today:

Event Places Points
M 200 BR 7th – Cordes
8th – Szaranek
Cordes – 0
Szaranek – 0
M 200 IM 7th – Szaranek
8th – Bentz
Szaranek – 2
Bentz – 0
M 400 FR 7th – Baqlah
8th – Haas
Baqlah – 0
Haas – 0
M 50 BR 6th – Cieslak
8th – Cordes
Cieslak – 0
Cordes – 0

That’s half of today’s individual events yielding a grand total of two points for the Cali men.

NCAA prospects Coming Up big

We mentioned Rooney above. But this is the first true class of ISL ‘rookies’ to come out of the NCAA and into an established professional league. This group is proving that the NCAA-to-ISL pipeline should be an impactful one in the future.

Here are a few of the top 2020 NCAA grads and their performances today:

Meghan Small, Cali Condors (10 individual points)

  • 200 IM – 4th place -2:08.48
  • 200 BR – 4th place – 2:21.16

Both swims were terrific for Small – we had her just 5th on the team’s 200 breast depth chart, but as a surprise entrant, she lived up to it. Margalis has been 2:18 before, but Small’s 4th-place allowed Margalis to remain fresh for her busy event lineup today.

Erika Brown, Cali Condors (8 individual points)

  • 100 FL – 4th place – 56.80
  • 50 FR – 6th place – 24.27
  • 100 FR (relay split) – 52.26
  • 100 FR (relay leadoff) – 53.02

These were solid swims for Brown in a busy day. Notably, her 53.0 in the 100 free came in her only single-session double today, a very quick turnaround from the individual 100 fly

Beata Nelson, Cali Condors (7 individual points)

  • 200 BK – 2nd place – 2:02.99
  • 100 BK (relay leadoff) – 56.51

Nelson focused in on backstroke today and was outstanding. A 2:02 in the 200 is going to make her one of the better options in the entire ISL now that Minna Atherton is out.

Abbey Weitzeil, LA Current (4 individual points)

  • 50 FR – 5th place – 24.22
  • 50 BR – 7th place – 30.91
  • 100 FR (relay split) – 52.60
  • 100 FR (relay leadoff) – 52.33

Weitzeil had a very busy day, including two swims (50 free and 50 breast) in the middle session. The latter of those swims was a bit disappointing, but Weitzeil’s relay splits were great. If she can become a 51-second leg, that bodes very well for LA’s relays moving forward.

Coleman Stewart, Cali Condors (6 individual points)

  • 200 BK – 6th place – 1:54.55
  • 50 BK – 3rd place – 23.22
  • 100 BK (relay leadoff) – 50.50

Stewart was outstanding, and the Condors needed him to be after losing top backstroker Mitch Larkin. Stewart’s blazing 20.6 best time in the 50-yard backstroke converts to a 22-high, so his sprint speed appears to be firing on all cylinders. That’ll be big if the men’s skin race is backstroke tomorrow, as we expect it to be.

Blume & Ottesen Still struggling

Pernille Blume and Jeanette Ottesen are two pretty big names in sprinting. But neither has really translated their reputations into commensurate ISL production. Last year, Ottesen was 140th in the league in MVP points, never breaking into double-digit scoring in any of her four meets. Blume was 104th, swimming in three meets.

Both have changed teams (Blume went from the NY Breakers to Energy Standard; Ottesen from the London Roar to the Breakers), but the production hasn’t picked up yet. Blume was just 7th in the 50 free today and Ottesen 8th. Ottesen was also 6th in the 100 fly.

Blume did have a solid 52.5 split on a winning 4×100 free relay. But the ceiling sure seems a lot higher for both than what we’ve seen so far.

Michael Andrew

Last year, one issue for the New York Breakers was how many events Michael Andrew had to contest to help fill that lineup out. Today, the Breakers tried to keep things lighter for Andrew, swimming him only in three 50s and a relay. But it didn’t translate to a lot of scoring, perhaps because the new event lineup crams the 50s of strokes pretty close together.

Andrew was 5th in the 50 free and 4th in the 50 breast in a tough session 2 double. Both are tough fields, but the 50 free is especially brutal in this week’s group of four teams. Directly after the break, Andrew had yet another event, the 50 back, and the tough session added up as Andrew was one of five athletes to have their points stolen to jackpkot in that race.

It’s hard to say what the best formula is for Andrew’s usage in this league. But with just 9 points in three individual swims today, it’s clear the Breakers have to find a better way to translate Andrew’s skills into scoring.

Free Agency Wins for ENS

Energy Standard won the league last year. They also ‘won’ free agency, getting a few of the top unsigned names but also stealing some of the best athletes from rosters that were already weaker than Energy’s. Those free agent additions came up huge today:

Danas Rapsys (12 individual points)

  • 400 FR – 1st place – 3:39.36

Rapsys was originally on the Energy Standard roster last year, but withdrew to focus on the World Cup. He immediately put up a gamechaning time in the 400 free and looks like a massive addition this year.

Siobhan Haughey (7 individual points)

  • 400 FR – 2nd place – 3:58.58
  • 100 FR (relay leadoff) – 51.59

Haughey was the MVP of the DC Trident last year, and it’s unclear how she was able to leave DC when the ISL said teams were allowed to ‘protect’ up to 8 athletes apiece. Stepping up to the Energy Standard roster means Haughey gets to swim an even lighter event lineup and the result was a huge near-win in the 400 free.

Felipe Lima (7 individual points)

  • 50 BR – 2nd place – 26.06
  • 100 BR (relay split) – 57.01

Lima was a top-50 individual scorer in the league last year for the LA Current, and he got to greet his old team today by taking second in the 50 breast, one spot ahead of LA’s top entrant.

Benedetta Pilato (7 individual points)

  • 50 BR – 2nd place – 28.97

We’re not sure how Pilato got away from the Italian team, which had otherwise snagged almost all of Italy’s top swimmers before they mostly withdrew from the league. Pilato is maybe the only threat to Cali’s 50 breast dominance, and came up with one of the best swims in league history today.

No Zane Waddell?

We expected LA to have a formidable sprint backstroke group with Ryan Murphy and Zane WaddellBut the sprint specialist Waddell did not compete at all today. We’re not sure if he’s in the mix to swim tomorrow or later on in the season, but the absence of his potentially-dominant 50 back throws a wrinkle into what we assumed was LA’s plan to win the medley and pick backstroke for tomorrow’s high-point skin event.

No Nic Fink?

Cali struggled hard in the breaststrokes, as shown above. But top breaststroker Nic Fink was absent from the results today. There’s no word on Fink’s status, but he’s very important to Cali’s breaststroke group. We have him as their top 50 breaststroker by at least seven tenths of a second, their top 100 breaststroker by a full second, and their top 200 breaststroker by almost six seconds. Without Fink, the depth was really strained and Cal had to throw in IMer Mark Szaranek as a fill-in breaststroker.

Kolesnikov struggles

Another backstroke group that we picked as a standout wasn’t quite what we expected today. Energy Standard has two elite Russian backstrokers to go along with Olympic champ Matt Grevers (who only swam relays today). But Kliment Kolesnikov was way off today, scoring zero points  in two individual swims. Here’s a look at his results:

  • 200 BK – 7th place – 1:55.70
  • 100 FR (relay split) – 47.37
  • 50 BK – 8th place – 24.05

Kolesnikov was 23.2, 23.4, 23.4, and 23.1 in 50 backs last year in the ISL, never finishing lower than 3rd. His free relay split was pretty comparable to last year, when his swims ranged from 46.8 to 47.9.

Kolesnikov never swam the 200 back in the ISL season last year, so it’s possible the event load wore on him a little as the meet went on. It’s also possible his 50 back was just an outlier, a bad swim from which he could bounce back tomorrow.

But it does leave Energy Standard with a tough decision. If the skin race does indeed go backstroke for the men (as we expect it to), Energy has to choose whether to swim Kolesnikov there after a bad 8th-place showing in the same event today, or pivot away from the long course world record-holder to one of its many (Rylov, Grevers, Manaudou) strong backstroke options.

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3 months ago

I don’t like the jackpotting. It feels like it’s only increasing the disparities we saw last year; the rich get richer. I thought the minimum times they had last year was sufficient to keep people from sandbagging races, hopefully they go back to that next season. I literally screamed at my tv when Rowdy appeared. He’s a great person and wonderful ambassador for the sport over the years, but sweet baby cheezits we need some fresh voices. I’m more disappointed in this choice than the jackpotting, frankly. But all that said it was a fun 2 hours and I’m so glad it’s back. Fast swimming, lots of action. I do not understand the haters here. Sure there are flaws, but… Read more »

Reply to  Roch
3 months ago

You make some good points but I think it just makes it more interesting and more competitive. If it wasn’t for the jackpot the NYbreakers would probably have 78 points and not 178 points. But anyway GO CONDORS!

Reply to  Swammer
3 months ago

Maybe Braden and team will give us a breakdown after tomorrow showing what the scores would have been without jackpots…. I’d love to be wrong on this. If it adds more parity, then I’m on board. It IS exciting and fun to see your team score big (what up Lilly King!) and could add extra intrigue towards team standings at the end of the meet.

Reply to  Roch
3 months ago

That’s the plan!

Reply to  Braden Keith
3 months ago

I love you. I knew I could count on you. And these sentiments are in no way influenced by the cocktail I had with supper. Y’all are the best.

Season 2 hype
3 months ago

Speaking of Condor breaststroke struggle bus, where is nic fink? He should have been able to contribute (and hopefully not get jackpotted). They are going to need to figure out how to compete there if they want a chance to start being competitive in the medley- 59 splits aren’t cutting it. They had the two slowest breast splits of the field.

Corn Pop
Reply to  Season 2 hype
3 months ago

They are not robots . They ar e humans who have had varying training opportunities due to cv19. Sheesh.

3 months ago

‘Swimming MA only in 50s’ is standard operating procedure…

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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