The ISL competition in College Park, MD this past weekend featured two incredibly close contents: a battle for 1st place between the LA Current and the Cali Condors, and a battle for 3rd place between the DC Trident and the NY Breakers. Ultimately, LA and DC prevailed, but it came down to the very last event, in both cases, and proved a thrilling finale.
We here at SwimSwam predicted that Cali would win over LA, a prediction that was looking pretty good throughout Day 2 as the Condors built their lead up to 23.5 points (23.5 and not 20.5 because DQs shouldn’t score leading into the 200 fly and the skins. When Hali Flickinger and Kelsi Dalhia went 1-4 in the 200 fly (while LA’s Ella Eastin and Leah Smith finished just 3-8 with Smith not making the time standard), putting Cali up by 31.5, we kind of thought it was over (given that Caeleb Dressel seems like a lock to win the skins) and ended up paying way more attention to the race for 3rd place (where you could make the claim that the DC-NY race came down entirely to Siobhan Haughey out-touching Pernille Blume by 0.04s to advance to the 3rd round of skins).
But then LA mounted a tremendous comeback. The men’s 200 fly was a perfect event for them. Not only did Tom Shields and Chase Kalisz finish 1-2, but Cali’s Mark Szaranek and Jan Switkowski finished 7-8 – not including penalties, this was the maximum possible net gain on an individual event of 13 points. LA’s Beryl Gastaldello followed that up with a masterful performance in the skins (swimming 23.98, 24.54, 24.46 by round) to win, and Margo Geer finished 5th, while Cali managed just a 4th and 8th place finish. Another 20 point gain for LA. This gave LA a slight, 1.5 point lead, with just the men’s skins, and Caeleb Dressel, to go. But even though Dressel won, as expected, LA got both Michael Chadwick and Ryan Held into the second round, and Chadwick advanced to the third round, such the LA actually outscored Cali 31-30, even with Dressel winning!
We were pretty surprised that LA won. Both from Cali generally leading all of day 2, and winning one of the skins events, and even winning 19 of the 37 events (LA won 12, the Trident won the other 6).
So let’s take a look back throughout the whole meet and see how LA won, even while DQing a relay, even without Nathan Adrian, and see where Cali left points on the table.
Let’s start with the obvious: time penalties. Actually, Cali only had a single penalty for the whole weekend: Radoslaw Kawecki missed the 25.00 cutoff in the 50 back with his 25.04 finish. But in his 100 back the same weekend, he was 24.92 to the feet. And 24.58 got 6th. That’s at least 1, if not 2, points that Cali could’ve used.
Relays are especially fun to second guess. In the mixed freestyle relay, Cali’s “B” relay lost to the Trident’s “A” relay by just 0.35 and the Current’s “B” relay by 0.80. That’s pretty close. Moreover, in this relay, the Condors’ “A” team won by over 2.5 seconds, having stacked this relay. But times don’t matter! It doesn’t matter if you win by 2.5 seconds or by 0.5 seconds. If they swapped Caeleb (45.7) and Tate Jackson (47.4), they still would’ve won handily but their “B” relay would’ve moved up to 3rd (from 6th) and more importantly would’ve passed both LA relays. That’s a 10 point swing, in a meet that the Condors lost by 2.5.
A similar story is true of both medley relays. Cali went 1-3 in the womens’ medley, with LA getting second, but Cali’s “A” relay won by over 2 seconds. Swap Lilly King (1:03.1 split) and Molly Hannis (1:04.2 split) and Cali goes 1-2 in this relay, another 4 point swing. Cali didn’t win the men’s medley relay, they got 3rd and 6th, but they could swap Dressel (49.5) and Jan Switkowski (52.5) on the fly legs and have gone 3-4 instead, for another 4 point gain.
Of course, it’s easy to cherry pick single swaps given all the splits after the fact. Although, amusingly, every single permutation of Cali’s two mixed freestyle relays scores at least as well as the one they used. They actually netted 2 points on LA (outscoring them 24 to 22) but the optimal mix here would’ve had them net 14 points: Jackson/Majchrzak/Comerford/
Moving on from relays, there were a few particularly close finishes. Ella Eastin (LA) beat Kelsi Dalhia (CAC) by just 0.09 in the 200 fly, which is another 2 point swing in LA’s favor. Molly Hannis (Cali) finished 4th in the 100 breast, but was only 0.03 behind NY’s Breeja Larson and 0.14 behind LA’s Annie Lazor. Potential for gain there too.
In the men’s 200 free, Cali had an especially poor showing. LA went 1-2 on the efforts of Blake Pieroni (1:43.48) and Andrew Seliskar (1:43.66) while Cali managed just a 6-7 finish with Majchrzak (1:44.20) and Townley Haas (1:45.87). That’s an 11 point loss to LA. While this was Haas’ fastest swim of the season, Majchrzak went 1:43.58 in Naples. Repeating that time in College Park would’ve netted 5 points for Cali, enough for the win.
Of course, some of the events that Cali lost big to LA (like the mens’ 200 fly and mens’ 400 IM, where they lost 13 and 9 points, respectively) are simply events that Cali is relatively weaker in. You can’t win everything. It’s not like there’s a lineup Cali could’ve used to beat LA by 50.
But maybe they could’ve won by 10.
And you can bet that’s something they’ll be thinking about for the next month leading into Vegas.