WASHINGTON (AP) – LA Current overhauled the Cali Condors and MVP Caeleb Dressel as the teams booked their passage to the first International Swimming League grand final in Las Vegas next month in a pulsating American derby in College Park, Maryland.
The Condors were 21.5pts ahead with four events left and appeared on the brink of a narrow victory coming into the skins — the back-to-back, knockout 50 meter freestyle races which culminate in two swimmers in a head-to-head final.
With Beryl Gastaldello and Michael Chadwick coming first and second respectively in their races, and Ryan Held also advancing from the first round, it meant victory thanks to a late charge from the Current.
DC Trident edged out New York Breakers by eight points with 322pts as they fought their own private duel.
But they will play no part at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on 20-21 December where the Current and Condors take on the two teams who qualify from the European derby in London next week.
LA Current captain Matt Grevers had stressed the importance on Saturday of his team being ahead going into the skins, given Dresselâ€™s pre-eminence, and was fulsome in his praise â€“ especially given his team were trailing at that point.
â€œWe just had guys and girls really stepping up,â€ he said. â€œRyan Held actually wasnâ€™t feeling well, heâ€™s not swimming 100%, but I think getting fourth and getting to the next round gave us that extra boost.
â€œActually gained us points on the skins when we thought we were going to lose.â€
He added: â€œI donâ€™t know if anyone in the world ever can beat that guy in this type of event. I mean â€“ heâ€™s Caeleb Dressel.
â€œBut for us to get two and then four that was one of the best scenarios we could have come up with.â€
The MVP is awarded to the swimmer who contributed the most number of points to their team over the weekend. With victories in the 50m and 100m freestyle and butterfly, as well as the menâ€™s skins, Dressel finished atop the standings with 61.5pts, 10pts ahead of Gastaldello.
There was also a new American record of 22.21secs in the 50m butterfly but Dressel would have happily swapped his MVP award, his second following the Naples leg, for team victory.
â€œI would much rather get the team title than the individual,â€ he said. â€œI guess you just saw me staring at the scoreboard â€“ I donâ€™t care about the times or the MVP stuff â€“ the team title would have been really nice.
â€œBut we will be better in the events to come in Vegas where we have another shot. Thatâ€™s really the whole point of these first three meets is to qualify for Vegas so we will be better as a team, as a collective whole.
â€œThere are some areas I can improve on and some areas the whole team can improve on. It is a competition and itâ€™s not an individual one so I am a fierce competitor but itâ€™s the team title we are going for and we didnâ€™t get that. So we have got to set the standard a little higher next time.â€
There was also an American record of 56.29 for Ian Finnerty in the 100m breaststroke to add to his 50m mark on Saturday.
Cody Miller, whose 100m record was eclipsed, described the event as â€œa blastâ€, saying: â€œWe are on the cusp of really growing the sport and moving in the right direction. It was a lot of fun.
â€œI think the ISL has put a big emphasis on growing athlete profiles which is something that our sport really needs to do in order to grow and take it to the next level.â€
The International Swimming League is a professional swimming competition with teams in Italy, France, Hungary and the UK, plus four more in the US.