The 2020 ISL champion Cali Condors have released their first five retained swimmers – but league MVP Caeleb Dressel is not among them.
This is the first year of the retention process, so we don’t really have a blueprint for how teams will structure their picks. Each team will ultimately retain up to 15 athletes before the first round of the draft, then fans can vote one more swimmer back onto the team.
But an absence from the team’s announcement of retained swimmers could also suggest that an athlete has withdrawn from the league next season or is planning a break from competition following this summer’s Olympics.
The Condors announced that they’d be retaining butterflyer Kelsi Dahlia, breaststroker Molly Hannis, backstroker/freestyler Justin Ress, back/fly/IM all-arounder Beata Nelson and back/free hybrid Coleman Stewart.
That list is as notable for who is missing as for who is on it. None of Cali’s top four scorers in regular-season points are a part of the first five being retained. That includes #1 overall scorer Dressel, #4 scorer Lilly King (who went nearly two seasons without losing a breaststroke race in the ISL), #5 scorer Olivia Smoliga (a co-captain with Dressel in 2019 and 2020) and #13 scorer Hali Flickinger. Each of those four swimmers scored 146+ individual points, including 277 from Dressel and 228 from King.
Nelson was the #17 regular-season scorer last year, scoring 130 points. Ress was #49, Hannis #59, Dahlia #68 and Stewart #95.
Other key names not yet retained: #56 scorer and newly-crowned Olympian Erika Brown, #65 scorer Radoslaw Kawecki, Olympic sprinter Natalie Hinds, 2019 impact backstroker and 2020 opt-out Mitch Larkin and top breaststroker Nic Fink, who missed half the regular season but played a key role in Cali’s playoff run.
DRAFT/PLAYER RETENTION RULES
First, a quick refresher on personnel rules, as announced by the league:
Each team can retain up to 16 swimmers from their 2020 rosters across six different rounds of retention:
- 5 pre-selected athletes to retain
- 4 athletes announced in round 1 of retention
- 3 athletes announced in round 2 of retention
- 2 athletes announced in round 3 of retention
- 1 athlete announced in round 4 of retention
- 1 athlete voted on by fans (this round of retention comes after the first round of the ISL draft, though)
After that, players not retained will fall to the ISL Draft Pool, where the Aqua Centurions and DC Trident will each have a first-round pick. The Draft Pool will include unretained players, but also ISL rookies, like NCAA graduates and other new ISL additions.