Earlier today, USA Swimming confirmed that the 2015 version of U.S. Winter Nationals will be conducted in long course meters rather than the traditional short course yards format.
Though the winter national meet is usually run in short course, the format will change to the Olympic distance in preparation for the U.S. Olympic Trials, to take place in the summer of 2016.
USA Swimming has also released the qualifying standards for the meet, which, as we noted earlier today, got significantly faster in most cases. The biggest drops in the time standards came in the short course versions of each event, more evidence that USA Swimming is putting it’s biggest organizational focus on the long course format leading up the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The long course format of the meet probably means the event will attract more professional-level swimmers, who focus more exclusively on the Olympic distances. It also sets up an interesting scenario for college programs that typically use Winter Nats as their mid-season rest meet.
Because the meet is in long course, teams won’t be able to use it to hit NCAA qualifying times, something top-tier teams like to do to give swimmers the flexibility to train through their conference championships and save a full taper for NCAAs.
On the other hand, a long course Winter Nats give collegiate swimmers an opportunity to either qualify for Olympic Trials or improve their seeds for the meet. One possibility is that we see a lot more teams move to split-squads for next winter’s invite season, sending certain athletes to the long course national meet and others to one of the various short course college invites hosted around the country.
The USA Swimming website still lists no information on where the Winter National meet will be held.