USA Swimming Proposing Creation Of New Junior-Level Meet, Split of Winter Junior Nationals

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, June 24. A USA Swimming committee notified the organization’s local branches today of two proposals that would help many age-group athletes bridge the gap between the sectional championships and the junior national championships.

In a letter to the Local Swim Committees, the Senior Development Committee mentioned two possible meet formats that will go to a vote at the House of Delegates in September at the United States Aquatic Sports Convention. One of them would return to a previous format for the junior national championships, splitting it in two, while other would create a new meet with time standards that fall between sectional and junior national qualifying times.

As for splitting junior nationals, it would become two meets: Juniors East and Juniors West. This was how USA Swimming ran the short course and long course juniors for many years until the organization stopped hosting junior nationals in 2000. When the junior national championship returned to the USA Swimming calendar in 2005, it became one meet.

USA Swimming is proposing a split of only the short course junior nationals, normally held in December. This would, according to the letter, “allow us to serve a greater number of athletes at the Juniors level.” Time standards would be changed to meet an 800-swimmer capacity per meet, with December 2015 set as the proposed debut.

As for the new meet to serve those swimmers who are finding it difficult to move from sectionals to juniors, a long course “Legends” meet is proposed with at least three meets to be held across the country. The time standards would be “2.5 percent slower than the 2013 Juniors cuts,” which is estimated to bring about 2,500 swimmers to these meets. The meets would be held in the same week as the long course junior nationals.

Full letter from Senior Development Committee

For the past few years, there has been increasing concern about the gap between the time standards for the Speedo Champions Series (“Sectionals”) and the time standards for the Speedo Junior Nationals (“Juniors”). While there is minimal difference between cuts for the Phillips 66 National Championships (“Nationals”) and Juniors, the jump from Sectionals to Juniors is significant and expanding.

A related issue is that USA Swimming membership has experienced a 40% increase in the number of 13 & over athletes since 2003. Even with that influx of athletes, there have been relatively few changes to USA Swimming’s championship meet program to accommodate the additional 44,000 swimmers age 13 & over. Addressing this growth was one of the primary reasons the Senior Development Committee pushed forward several changes to the Sectionals program in 2013.

Since that time, there has been ongoing discussion about possible ways to address the gap between Sectionals and Juniors. Before making the recommendations below, the Senior Development Committee received input and discussed the following potential options:

1) Split Juniors into two meets (ex. East/West)

2) Create a third level of championship meets between Sectionals and Juniors

3) Develop a series of Junior Grand Prix Meets

4) Create a 16 & Under Junior Nationals

5) Create a National Age Group Championships

Recommendation After a year-long process and in-depth discussion of all the potential options, the Senior Development Committee unanimously endorsed the two concepts below with variations to accommodate the long course season and short course season.

1. Long Course Season

The Senior Development Committee is proposing the creation of a third level of championship meets between Sectionals and Juniors. The working title for these meets is the Legends Championships (“Legends”). This proposal suggests adding a layer of meaningful and motivating season-ending long course championship meets to bridge the gap between Sectionals and Juniors. Some key aspects of the concept include:

1) Meets would have no age limit.

2) The concept would likely start with three meets and an additional meet (or meets) could be added as performance and demand dictates.

3) LSCs would be assigned to a specific Legends meet each year. Assignments would ensure quality competition and meet sites. In order to provide variety and create interest, meet assignments could rotate from year to year.

4) Time standards for the Legends meets would provide a stepping stone from Sectionals to Juniors. The current time standard projection is 2.5% slower than the 2013 Juniors cuts. Based on 2013 performances, that cut would produce an estimated 2,950 eligible participants.

5) Time standards would be the same for all Legends meets. The short course standards would be converted from the long course times.

6) These meets would be conducted the same week as the LC Junior Nationals. This timing provides a season-ending championship racing opportunity for athletes who do not qualify for Juniors or Nationals (as opposed to concluding the season at Sectionals in mid-July).

7) USA Swimming would provide funding for these meets in a similar manner to the funding provided for the current Zone Championships. The projected funding level for the Legends events is $15,000 per meet. The current funding provided for the Senior Zone Championships would be maintained.

8) It is recommended that these meets be implemented in 2015.

9) Oversight of these meets will belong with the Senior Development Committee.

2. Short Course Season

The Short Course Junior Nationals have reached maximum capacity and the time standards for this meet are almost equal to the cuts for Short Course Nationals. To solve the short course season issue, the Committee is proposing that the current Short Course Juniors be divided into two meets. Splitting the SC Juniors will allow us to serve a greater number of athletes at the Juniors level.

Some key aspects of this concept include:

1) LSCs would be assigned to an East or West championship meet based on a yet-to-be determined division of LSCs. The split would attempt to evenly divide the projected number of qualifiers and provide quality meet sites.

2) These meets would be short course meets and offer long course time trials the day following each championship meet.

3) The two meets would maintain the order of events and the 3.5 day format scheduled for 2014.

4) Time standards would be established to accommodate approximately 800 athletes per meet.

5) It is recommended that these meets be implemented in 2015.

Next Steps

The proposed legislation to create these new events has been submitted to the Rules and Regulations Committee and the necessary funding for these events will be included in the 2015 budget proposal. The proposals will be deliberated at the USAS Convention in September.

If you have questions regarding the proposals, please contact one of the following members of the Senior Development Committee: Dave Ferris, Chair; Shawn Smith; Kathleen Prindle; or Paul Silver

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Author: Jeff Commings

Jeff Commings is the Senior Writer for and Swimming World Magazine. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and was a nine-time NCAA All-American.

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