So where exactly do NCAA qualifiers come from? They come from years of hard work, supportive coaches, friends, and often family, they come from the right mix of technique, drive, passion, and steadfast focus on a goal…
But they also come from places. Literal, physical places.
But which, physical literal places?
We’ve gone through and laid out exactly where the female individual qualifiers for the 2017 Women’s NCAA Championships qualifiers listed and collected data on where they come from – broken down both in terms of states and countries. Note that there’s some wrinkles in the data, like international swimmers who wind up at Bolles or the Baylor School for high school, but we’ve tried to stick with an athlete’s listed “hometown” from their collegiate bios as closely as possible.
There are tons of observations that could be made here – we’ve made a list of some of them below.
- The states with the most qualifiers aren’t a big surprise for the most part. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that a state with a huge population, a long and proud history of swimming, and 2 top-5 caliber NCAA teams, is ranked so low on the list. The state has the same number of qualifiers as Maryland, whose flagship university cut their swimming program within the last decade. The state of Texas has the best infrastructure of competitive swimming pools in the country (massive natatorium complexes at Texas, the University of Houston, and A&M, one about to be constructed at SMU, high school pools in Mansfield and Conroe that regularly host NCAA competition, indoor 50 meter pools all over the place, the new San Antonio Northeast ISD complex that hosted US Nationals, and almost every new high school in every suburban district getting a big new pool with a grand stand) -so there’s something else at play here.
- California and Florida lead the pack, which comes as no surprise to anybody. Those two states have cultures that encourage activity and geography that encourage aquatic activity to couple with big populations.
- Tennessee, with a big facility of its own and a swimming program at Tennessee that has been good for generations, only is sending 3 swimmers. The rub here is that the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association doesn’t sponsor high school swimming. That job has been left to the state’s interscholastic swim coaches’ association to organize on its own.
- South Carolina comes through with an impressive 6 qualifiers even with a relatively small state population of 4.8 million. A super-short high school season (they’re done in October) means that club swimming dominates in the state, and those club coaches (including a strong YMCA system) are turning out a high rate of NCAA qualifiers.
- Populations of the top 4 states – California (30 in 38.8 million), Florida (16 in 19.9 million), Pennsylvania (14 in 12.8 million), and Ohio (11 in 11.6 million), and Georgia (10 in 10 million).
- Scotland has more qualifiers than the rest of the UK combined. That mirrors an international trend where Scotland has taken to the forefront of British swimming.
- That Canada is the most common international site for NCAA qualifiers won’t be any big surprise, but the number of them in the group might. Once again, a mirror of the Canadian women’s rise in international swimming. The Canadian men’s number will expected to be lower next week.
- What might be more surprising, and is less-discussed, is the German success in the NCAA (Fabian Schwingenshlogl won the men’s NCAA title in the 100 breaststroke last year). There’s been some tumult in Germany, a country with a long history of international success, possibly driving their top swimmers to the NCAA system. The two countries also, in general, have a long history of student exchanges.
- Out of the 281 NCAA individual qualifiers, 218 are American and 63 are international. That 78% Americans. We don’t have the data yet, but we suspect that the men’s numbers will show a higher percentage of internationals.
Note: by separating Scotland from England and Hong Kong from the rest of China, we’re not making a political statement. Those places actually compete independently in various international competitions, so we’ve separated them for the same reasons.