I receive a few questions from parents and swimmers about meet line-up decisions. I welcome all such questions but there are two common types of questions I wanted to address:
- Tim’s time in the 50 free is wrong, his time is slower than that, can you fix this?
- Jane really likes backstroke and swam it last week, can she swim it again this week?
The answers to these and similar questions are dictated both by JRAC rules and the philosophy of the Ridgetop coaches when approaching the meet lineup.
Most parents understand that competition is divided into the following speed classifications: Novice, Regular, X and XX. Swimmers within each category compete only with swimmers in the same category. Places 1-6 are scored, and the points gain a little value for the faster divisions; in other words, a 3rd place in the X division scores more than a 3rd place in the Novice division, though the difference isn’t huge. Details on the scoring are in the JRAC rule book (article 3.10).
In the Novice division, each team can enter an unlimited number of swimmers in dual meets (with the exception of the 100 IM, see below). JRAC policy is that a mite swimmer should be expected to finish the 25 free in 90 seconds and in other events that coaches should have a reasonable expectation that the swimmer can complete the event without being disqualified.
In each meet, novices can swim in two strokes: freestyle and one other as shown below.
- weeks 1 and 4: novices can do backstroke
- weeks 2 and 5: novices can do breaststroke
- weeks 3 and 6: novices can do butterfly.
So novice swimmers can ALWAYS do a freestyle event, and we will also enter a novice in the other stroke if we feel that there is a reasonable chance the swimmer can do it legally. In addition, we can enter up to 3 novice swimmers in the 100 IM in any given meet.
Regular swimmers can swim in any event but there is a catch: only three Regular swimmers from one team are allowed in a given event. That means there is only one heat of Regular swimmers and that each swimmer is guaranteed to score points (unlike with Novices), assuming that the swimmer completes the event legally.
Coaches can choose to temporarily “promote” a Novice swimmer to the Regular category for a particular event. The Ridgetop coaches will most commonly do that if we don’t have three Regular swimmers in a given event, or if those swimmers are doing other events. The coaches are aware that it can be daunting for a swimmer to compete against others who are (on paper) significantly faster, but we also see many times when swimmers step up their game to rise to the challenge. Generally we will try not to promote someone who is far, far away from being a Regular swimmer. Just realize that the coach of the other team may be doing the same thing, particularly for the smaller teams, so that the heat of “Regulars” may actually consist of several Novices. Sometimes the entire Regular heat consists of promoted Novices.
Just because a swimmer is “promoted” to Regular once doesn’t mean s/he is forever a Regular swimmer in that event. That only happens when the swimmer achieves a time faster than the Regular time standard.
The same rules apply to X and XX swimmers: only three allowed per team. But it is almost never the case where both teams have three X or XX swimmers so usually there are fewer than six swimmers in these categories. And coaches can never promote Novice or Regular swimmers into the X/XX categories. Since the places score more points and the fact that achieving X or XX times “makes room” for more swimmers to compete in Regular events, achieving X or XX times is a valuable thing for the team. If a swimmer is close to an X or XX time the coaches may place him or her in the event in the hopes that the time standard will be met.
Beyond scoring considerations, the coaches at Ridgetop want to make sure that swimmers have a chance to compete in a wide variety of events. This is particularly important in the younger age groups. A swimmer may have a strong preference (or a strong dislike) for a given stroke, but sometimes a stoke will just “click” unexpectedly and yield large performance improvements, so it is important to try all the strokes (repeatedly).
The rules change slightly at champs. First of all, there are qualification times that a swimmer must meet in order to compete at champs. Beyond that:
- only two swimmers per speed category are allowed for each event, including the Novice category;
- relays are divided into two categories: Novice and Other. The Novice relay must consist of all Novice swimmers. Only one relay can be entered in each category;
- swimmers can enter five events over the course of the two-day meet, and a maximum of four can be individual events.
Due to these entry limitations, meeting the qualifying standards is NOT sufficient to guarantee that a swimmer will be able to swim in the JRAC Championship.
The goal of the Ridgetop coaching staff is to maximize the size of our championship team so that as many (non year-round) swimmers as possible can experience the environment of a championship meet. This goal is another reason why it is important for swimmers to advance in their speed classifications: it makes more “room” for other swimmers to be entered in the championship meet.