ISL Stars of Week 5: Kolesnikov, Dressel, Murphy, Banic & More

In this weekly series, we’ll track stars of the week’s ISL meets, both established stars and rising stars.


Stars of the week will profile top-end swimmers who outperformed expectations for the week. Just winning events isn’t necessarily enough.

Sarah Sjostrom, ENS

Sjostrom won six total events, swimming a very heavy event load for Energy Standard and proving that she’s fully returned from back pain that sidelined her for week 3.

Sjostrom tied the ISL record in the 100 fly, going 55.35. She won the 50 free in 23.42, the 100 free in 51.64, and split 51.9 and 52.8 on free relays. Also third in the 50 fly and 100 IM, Sjostrom came back to win the skins with remarkable consistency, going 24.06, 24.04, and 24.18 across three rounds of the 50 free. She was match #9’s MVP and sits 7th in the league in season-long MVP scoring despite missing one full match with her back issues. She probably won’t be able to make up 87 points on the leaders, but if Sjostrom had competed in week 3, there’s a good chance she’d be right in the hunt for a repeat MVP title.

Caeleb Dressel, CAC

Dressel is getting steadily better as the season goes on, and match #10 was clearly his best performances of the season. He scored 80.5 points individually without even entering the skins. Dressel won the 100 fly (49.02), 50 free (20.52), 100 free (45.56), and 100 IM (50.48), hitting season-bests in all four races. He also dropped four tenths of a second off his season-best in the 50 fly to go 22.06, though in his 7th swim of the meet, he couldn’t quite beat Szabo.

Dressel also popped relay splits of 45.2 in free, 49.5 in fly and 45.7 in free, helping Cali win two relays. He currently leads the league MVP ranks despite not getting to swim a single skins race in fly or free. (He’s competed in breaststroke, at-best his third-best stroke, twice).

Kliment Kolesnikov, ENS

Like Dressel, Kolesnikov is clearly heating up as the season goes on. The Energy Standard backstroker has become one of the league’s top relay weapons with his devastating combo of back and free speed. In match #9, he split 45.4 and 45.6 on free relays and led off a medley relay in 49.21.

That’s in addition to an individual 100 back win (49.65) and a runner-up in the 200 back (1:49.26) in a 1-2 for Energy. Kolesnikov is currently the league leader in the 100 back by almost half a second, and we haven’t even seen him contest a 50 back yet – that might be Energy Standard’s wild card come the post-season, as he’s probably the biggest threat to beat Ryan Murphy in the backstroke skins.

Ryan Murphy, LAC

Murphy also merits inclusion on our list. He has a league-leading three skins wins, dominating the 50 back for LA. Murphy destroyed a tough field this week, sweeping all three rounds of the skins for his third win.

Murphy is currently the ISL leader in both the 50 back (22.75) and 200 back (1:48.03), and sits third in the 100 back. Murphy went undefeated in match #10, winning seven total races, including all three rounds of the skins. He’s been a big reason why LA has yet to lose a men’s medley relay this year. And he’s currently 3rd in the league in season MVP points.

Nicholas Santos, IRO

Give Santos a ton of credit. At age 40, he’s the fastest 50 flyer in the entire ISL after crushing a 21.78 to win match #9 in a landslide.

The world record-holder in the 50 fly, Santos has torn it up this season. He came right off his 50 fly win to win the first round of the skins – that’s a tough turnaround for anyone, much less a 40-year-old veteran. He very nearly held on to make the final, coming within .14 seconds of beating Chad le Clos (twelve years his junior) in round 2. Santos hasn’t been a one-trick pony, either. He was second to le Clos in the 100 fly (49.87) and swam on both men’s relays for Iron this week.


Rising stars are lesser-known swimmers who had high-impact performances this week.

Mikhail Vekovishchev, LON

Vekovishchev has been a relay kingpin for London, coming up time and time again with his best swims on relays. This week, he split 46.0 anchoring a men’s free relay, along with a 49.30 fly leg of a medley. That fly leg even outsplit the great Dressel. Vekovishchev was also 1:42.3 in a 200 free in match #10, nearly handing Townley Haas his first 2020 loss in the event.

Dylan Carter, LAC

Carter came alive on day 2 for the LA Current, giving them a 1-2 backstroke punch that could have massive postseason ramifications. Carter swam the 50 back twice earlier this year, going 23.89 and 23.90. So when he suddenly took out his 100 back in 23.81 to his feet on a flip turn, LA got an inkling that something big could be around the corner. The Current entered Carter in the 50 back skins, where he beat out London’s dynamic duo of Guido and Diener, blocking both from the final and joining Murphy in an all-Current final. Carter was 23.28 in the opening round, a massive improvement. If he can keep that kind of speed, LA could be looking at a huge points haul in the men’s skins throughout the postseason.

Takeshi Kawamoto, TOK

Kawamoto did it all for Tokyo with seven swims in match #9. That was highlighted by a finals appearance in the skins – his second of the season. Kawamoto won the 50 back for Tokyo (23.10), tying Toronto’s Shane Ryan. He was also second in the 50 fly (22.37) and third in the 100 fly (49.96). Kawamoto had the field’s best fly split on the medley relay (49.4) and very nearly led a Tokyo upset of Energy Standard, making up half a second on le Clos during that leg.

Maddy Banic, ENS

Banic could have been on this list in previous weeks, too. She’s been a breakout star for Energy Standard, building the league’s best women’s butterfly group. Banic blasted a 55.84 in the 100 fly this week, taking second to Sjostrom. Energy Standard has the three best women’s 100 flyers in the entire league this year in Sjostrom (55.3), Shkurdai (44.6) and Banic (55.6). Most impressive for Banic this week, though, was a 55.8 butterfly relay split, outsplitting Shkurdai and helping Energy Standard go 1-2 over the field. The presence of Banic and Shkurdai means Energy can use Sjostrom on freestyle for two devastating medley relays. Banic was also 24.99 in the 50 fly, contending in one of the toughest fields we’ve seen in the league this year.

Leah Smith, TOK

Tokyo’s Smith has not lost a 400 freestyle yet this year – and she’s gotten steadily better week-to-week. Here are her winning 400 free times between weeks 2 and 5:

  • Week 2: 4:00.54
  • Week 3: 4:00.18
  • Week 4: 3:59.70
  • Week 5: 3:58.65

Smith ranks #3 in the league this year. The league leader, Melanie Margalis, has returned to the U.S. and won’t compete in the postseason. And Smith beat #2 Siobhan Haughey head-to-head in match #9.

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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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