Ohio High School Swimming Champs Expanding to 32 Qualifiers in Individual Events

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Ohio High School Swimming Champs Expanding to 32 Qualifiers in Individual Events

By Reagan Reetz, Swimming World College Intern 

There is nothing more electric than the end of February for Ohio high school swimmers. After completing sectionals and watching district results roll in, swimmers, coaches and parents begin charting rankings to see who is in the top 24 and gains the title of state qualifier. 

Ohioans’ qualification at the state meet depends on their previous performances during the championship tournament. A prospective state qualifier must swim well across the board to get that elusive experience in the city of Canton. 

When a swimmer sits on the verge of qualifying, someone out there will have a laptop open with results and a pen and paper listing the times leading to that swimmer. Even then, there is no guarantee of qualification until the morning after the final district meet, when the official compilation is posted. The magic number is 24, and the disappointment is immeasurable when seeing the number 25 next to a time resulting from a season’s worth of effort.

However, a recent decision by the Ohio High School Swimming Coaches Association means that the magic number is no longer 24. It’s now 32. 

An Increase by Eight

Announced via Facebook in October by Greater Canton Aquatic Association President R.J. Van Almen, 32 individuals will have the opportunity to qualify for the state meet in each event, with the number of relays able to qualify to remain at 24. Central District Representative for the OHSSCA, Jeff Riegler was the first to propose the change and cited improving the overall quality of the meet and allowing more swimmers to participate as his reasons for the proposal. 

“If you watch the state meet itself, most kids have to go all in at the district level just to make it there,” Riegler said. “This change allows the top swimmers an easier path while improving the quality of the meet.”

Last year in the Division I preliminaries of the girls 200 freestyle, only four out of 24 swimmers dropped time from their district meet. In finals, only half of the girls improved upon their time from districts. This is a pattern seen in most events. 

“So few are actually able to focus on swimming fast in Canton because there has been so much focus on districts,” President-Elect of the OHSSCA Mike de Bear said. “This has made the quality of the state meet suffer, and hopefully this change allows a little bit more wiggle room.”

The hope to improve the quality of the meet allows more swimmers to get to Canton. 

“High school athletics is not just about the top kids in each event,” de Bear said. “If you can give more kids the chance to experience the state meet, they’re now a state qualifier for the rest of their lives.”

Capacity in Canton

Ohio’s state meet is known to have packed stands and many athletes on deck, but the OHSSCA has worked closely with Canton to ensure that the extra qualifiers will not pose an issue regarding capacity. This is the reasoning behind the increase only affecting individual events and not relays.

“We want to have more schools and more kids able to participate at this high level, but with relays, the numbers do not pan out,” Riegler said. “There are a lot of relay-only swimmers and we just could not fit that many extra athletes in the facility.”

Riegler also noted that even with the ticket limitations present at the event, most athletes use only some of the tickets provided to them. Therefore, spectator space should not be a problem even with the increase in athletes.

Another worry is the timeline of the preliminary session, but calculations led to only an additional 35 minutes and no change for finals.

What it Takes

Across the board, the increase of qualifiers has nearly the same effect on every event across genders and divisions. Listed below are the average differentials for last year between the final state qualifier and the 32nd swimmer in the district compilation.

  • 50 freestyle: 0.21 seconds
  • 100 freestyle: 0.55 seconds
  • 200 freestyle: 1.32 seconds
  • 500 freestyle: 2.67 seconds
  • 100 butterfly: 0.64 seconds
  • 100 backstroke: 0.61 seconds
  • 100 breaststroke: 0.66 seconds
  • 200 individual medley: 1.43 seconds
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