2019 International Swimming League: Lewisville (Group B, Match 1)
- Saturday, October 19 – Saturday, October 20, 2019
- 2:00-4:00 PM U.S. Central Time
- The LISD Westside Aquatic Center – Lewisville, TX
- Short Course Meters (SCM) format
- Group B: Iron, LA Current, London Roar, New York Breakers
- Live stream, event schedule & viewer’s guide
After two straight weekends of Group A competition, fans know how that side of the league shakes out. We run down the teams in Group B, with a special emphasis on the double- and triple-point events proving to be the deciding factor in the ISL format so far: relays and skins races.
- Full roster
- Strengths: skins races, IMs, women’s breaststroke
- Weaknesses: sprint/relay depth, backstrokes
Skins & Relays
Iron actually sets up pretty well in the skins races. Both Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Vladimir Morozov have been sprint stalwarts on the World Cup series, excelling at the 50-meter distances in short course. Kromowidjojo is the world record-holder in the short course 50-meter free, though she was only third in the world last year. Morozov was the fastest in the world in the 50 short course free last year, three tenths better than anyone else who swam the event.
Morozov is probably the favorite in the men’s skins. Kromowidjojo is a top contender, along with London’s Cate Campbell.
There are some relay pieces here, but Iron doesn’t have the depth to put together two good relays in every event. The medleys might be in the best shape: the men should have a solid team of Robert Glinta, Peter John Stevens, Kristof Milak and Morozov.
Iron has a roster that would probably do better in a league that rewarded distance events more. Katinka Hosszu is the captain and arguably the best weapon – there might not be anyone on the planet better than Hosszu at swimming 3+ races in a session, and she could carry a heavy load for the team. ISL meets move at a rapid pace, so the best case for Iron is that the pace burns out top swimmers from other teams and Hosszu can snatch points through fatigue.
Alia Atkinson has been an outstanding short course swimmer and a World Cup standout. She’s the 50 breast world record-holder in short course, and might be the favorite in the 100 breast as well.
On the men’s side, most eyes will probably be on Morozov (who could probably score big in the 50s and 100s of any of the four strokes and should also swim every available relay) as well as Milak, the Hungarian breakout star who broke a Michael Phelps world record in the long course 200 fly over the summer. Milak doesn’t come down super well to the sprints, but should still be among the top overall flyers in Lewisville.
A lot of the roster are 200/400 types of various strokes, or IMers, who only get two primary events in the ISL format. Hosszu obviously excels in those races, and others in that boat are Zsuzsanna Jakabos, Ajna Kesely and Gunnar Bentz, the lone American on a European roster.
- Full roster
- Strengths: sprint/relay depth, backstroke, breaststroke
- Weaknesses: men’s distance, distance depth, butterfly
Skins & Relays
Two of the more intriguing sprint names to watch come on the Current roster. Ryan Held had an extraordinary summer in long course, and his NCAA resume suggests he should be a big factor this week. Meanwhile Nathan Adrian had a bit of a disjointed season, missing some training in treatment for testicular cancer, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more consistent sprints. Adrian should be great in the multiround skins format, and he’s also a great in-season swimmer.
The women’s sprints are hurting some with Amy Bilquist absent. Margo Geer is a solid skins entrant, but she’ll need a huge swim to beat the Kromo/Campbell/Campell field of Group B. There’s a lot of depth, but it’ll be tough for any of the other potential skins swimmers (Kendyl Stewart, Aly Tetzloff, Beryl Gastaldello) to make the final four.
Still, that bodes well for the relays. On both the women’s and men’s side, LA is built perfectly for the ISL, which requires strong stroke swimmers who can also hammer big 100 free legs on relays. There’s the quartet we mentioned for the women, plus Held, Adrian, Michael Chadwick, Blake Pieroni and Dylan Carter among many others. Don’t be surprised to see the Current’s B relays perform very well compared to other teams’ second relays – also keep an eye for some relay splitting, which could be a big points boon for LA.
It’s a pretty well-rounded roster. Backstroke is an obvious strength, with Ryan Murphy, Kathleen Baker and Matt Grevers all in the mix. Though IM points are a little undervalued in the ISL, Los Angeles has both Chase Kalisz and Ella Eastin, arguably the top two American options.
They’ve also got some clear swimmers on the rise: Held, Katie McLaughlin and Annie Lazor would all fall into that category after last year.
For the men, distance races might be an issue. Pieroni and Andrew Seliskar are probably fine up to the 200, but there aren’t any obvious 400 swimmers on the roster. Leah Smith fills that void admirably for the women.
Butterfly could be hit or miss – it’s very hard to predict. Mainly, that’s on the men’s side, where Tom Shields and Jack Conger are both very accomplished, but didn’t have the best 2019 summer seasons. The women’s flyers – McLaughlin, Farida Osman, Stewart – are good, but will have a hard time beating some of the sprint freestylers (Cate Campbell, Kromowidjojo) expected to cross over into fly.
The plus for LA is that they have the most U.S.-based roster on any of the eight ISL franchises, so most of their team will be swimming without cross-continental jet lag or long journeys to Texas.
- Full roster
- Strengths: women’s skins, overall sprint depth, backstroke
- Weaknesses: men’s fly, women’s breaststroke, IM
Skins & Relays
The Australian influence on this team (led by GM Rob Woodhouse, a sports agent for many top Australian talents) is going to come up big in the skins races. Australian duo Cate Campbell and Bronte Campbell are as good a 1-2 punch as you can find, and Cate is probably the odds-on favorite to win the skins, though Kromowidjojo could give her a great run.
The flip side is that the men might be a little undermanned without their full complement of British swimmers. Bruno Fratus was a late addition to the roster, and should be very well-suited for that multi-round skins race. Aussie freestylers Kyle Chalmers and Cam McEvoy are good, but both probably tend more towards the 100/200 at this point rather than the 50.
That said, the 100 free sprint depth (more important for relays) is great. The women have a ton of top talents, including the Campbell sisters, Emma McKeon and Jeanette Ottesen. The men should be able to field at least one solid relay, but their depth won’t come around until Duncan Scott and James Guy come back.
The non-free strokes are going to be extremely hit-or-miss with this very limited roster. Men’s breaststroke is in good hands with Kirill Prigoda, though the absence of Adam Peaty hurts badly. The women’s breaststrokes are much thinner, though. Women’s fly will be great, if only because Cate Campbell can cross over so well into the sprints, and McKeon and Ottesen are excellent in their own rights. Men’s fly, though, is pretty thin. Guy would’ve been likely their top contender there.
Backstroke should be pretty solid, between Guilherme Guido and Minna Atherton. The IMs are hurting though: that’s especially on the women’s side where Mireia Belmonte and Siobhan-Marie O’Connor are absent, but also on the men’s where Duncan Scott might’ve been their best 200 IMer.
New York Breakers
- Full roster
- Strengths: skins races, sprint/relay depth, men’s backstrokes
- Weaknesses: Distance free, IM, women’s backstrokes
Skins & Relays
Team captain Michael Andrew was tailor-made for the skins races. His USRPT program should have him well-prepared to swim a wide range of events in quick succession, and he’s historically heated up the more swims he contests – we’ll find out if that remains true even as Andrew is no longer an age grouper.
The sprint depth is awesome. Marcelo Chierighini and Brad Tandy could both be skins entrants. Pernille Blume should be a solid contender on the women’s side, and one of the few who could conceivably challenge the Campbells or Kromowidjojo.
That’s going to go a long way for the relays, too. The ISL really rewards teams that have strong stroke specialists who can also swim fast 100 frees for relay purposes. Enter Marius Kusch, Tayla Lovemore and Markus Thormeyer. The women’s team has great sprint depth, between their trio of Deloof sisters (Gabby Deloof, Catie Deloof, Ali Deloof), Lia Neal and Blume.
It’s a little hard to project the men, because Andrew could swim almost anywhere to fill lineup gaps, but obviously can’t swim everything at the same time. The Breakers are very strong in backstroke, between Jacob Pebley, Markus Thormeyer and Christopher Reid. They’re thinner in breaststroke, with only 200 specialist Marco Koch in the mix, so that might be a focus for Andrew.
Kusch is an outstanding butterflyer, and they’re deep on the women’s side with Lovemore, Alys Thomas and Haley Black.
The Breakers don’t have a lot of notable distance swimmers, though those events aren’t really a difference-maker in the ISL format. They don’t have any big-name IMer, but the ISL in general is light on IMers, and the Breakers should score decently.
Women’s backstroke seems pretty thin, between Madi Wilson and Ali Deloof.
Predicted Team Finish Order
- LA Current
- London Roar
- New York Breakers
LA’s sprint depth should carry the day – they have a chance to dominate the relays the way Energy Standard did in Group A the past two weekends.
The battle for second should be intense, and it’s extra meaningful, given only two teams from the group will likely advance to the final. We’ll go with London on the likelihood that their sprinters dominate the skins race. The obvious avenue to flip this would be Blume (and/or Iron’s Kromowidjojo) breaking up the Campbell sisters in the skins, which would be a massive points swing.
We expect those four to probably be the semifinalists in the women’s skins race, but the men’s is much more wide open. Morozov (Iron) and Andrew (New York Breakers) are probably the favorites, but you could see any of Held, Adrian (LA Current), Fratus, Chalmers (London Roar), Chierighini or Tandy (Breakers) joining them in the top four, depending on who enters from which team. Where the women’s race will probable hinge on round 2, the men’s points are probably going to be decided right out of the gate in round 1.