D1 Women’s National Cuts are Faster This Year-Does it Mean Anything?

by Andrew Mering 7

March 01st, 2018 College, News

The official psych sheets for the D1 women’s meet were released yesterday. The times to qualify were faster than last year which is typical. What surprised some is the amount that they were faster than last year. Last year already saw a large time jump from the previous years, so on it’s face, this was unexpected. For example the 200 free qualifying time in 2013 was 1:46.1. By 2016 this had dropped to 1:45.93. A difference of .17. A pretty minimal change over 3 years. Last year it dropped to 1:45.44. .49 faster in a single year. And this year it dropped to 1:44.90, another .54 faster. That’s 1.03 seconds faster over the last two years after changing by less than .2 the previous three.

The 200 free isn’t an isolated case. The 100 breast qualifying time dropped by .06 from 2013 to 2016. This year’s time was .55 faster than 2016 and .23 faster than last year. From 2013 to 2016 the average cut time got .12% faster each year. The last 2 years, the average cut time got .34% faster than the previous year. I wrote an article a couple of months ago trying to predict the cut times. The real cut times landed within 13 out of 13 confidence intervals, but the cut times were faster the projected cut times in 12 out of 13 cases.

So what’s the reason for this acceleration? Is the sport getting faster at an accelerated rate? What grand sweeping conclusions can we draw?

The first thing that’s clear when we look closer at the cut times data is that the NCAA’s selection procedure hurts the reliability of this stat as a bellwether of sport wide trends. The top 40 ranked swimmers in each event typically qualify for nationals, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. This year the top 36 or 37 ranked swimmers got in. The exclusion of a couple of ranks is enough to change the cut times by a few tenths of a second in most events. In fact, line 40 on this year’s pre selection psych sheet was only .2% faster than the 2017 cut times. To make generalizations about the state of the sport, we need a more reliable stat.

One candidate is the average time of the top 40 swimmers in an event each year. This accounts for the top end swimmers as well as the further back swimmers. If there are any big time dropoffs anywhere in the rankings, an average will take that into account. The cut line changes track pretty closely with the overall change in average time (complete data for both in the tables below). Going back 10 years it appears that this year’s improvement in qualifying times is actually about what we should expect. The sluggish improvements in 2014 and 2015 actually look like the outliers. The average top 40 time in each event improved by .26% from 2010 until 2014 (earlier than 2010 things get crazy because of the super suits). Then there was a lag in improvement in 2015 (.03% faster) and 2016 (.13% faster) followed by a big spike in 2017 (.49% faster). The 2017 spike now looks like a correction. The previous two years lagged behind the overall long term trend, so the 2017 jump brought the improvement curve back to the long term average.

Given the .2% improvement we saw in the line 40 times, I expect this year’s overall improvement to be about in line with the longer term norm of about .2%-.3% faster.  Current data has the average about .08% slower, but nationals hasn’t happened yet so it’s not a valid comparison yet. Improvement among top end NCAA women appears firmly on the trend we’ve seen over the last 8 years.

Cut Times

  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2018 Line 40
50 Free 22.45 22.4 22.4 22.32 22.23 22.30 22.30
100 Free 49 48.82 48.89 48.77 48.62 48.53 48.63
200 Free 1:46.1 1:46.03 1:45.95 1:45.93 1:45.44 1:44.90 1:45.00
500 Free 4:42.9 4:42.79 4:43.01 4:42.52 4:41.84 4:40.50 4:40.92
1650 Free 16:19.32 16:20.32 16:17.36 16:17.89 16:16.41 16:12.53 16:15.44
100 Back 53.21 53.2 52.97 52.93 52.65 52.54 52.61
200 Back 1:54.79 1:55.19 1:54.66 1:54.47 1:54 1:53.64 1:53.72
100 Breast 1:00.72 1:00.78 1:00.74 1:00.66 1:00.34 1:00.11 1:00.17
200 Breast 2:11.44 2:11.22 2:11.23 2:10.89 2:10.55 2:10.14 2:10.35
100 Fly 52.99 52.92 52.79 52.77 52.52 52.41 52.46
200 Fly 1:57.59 1:56.79 1:56.97 1:57.02 1:56.6 1:55.99 1:56.38
200 IM 1:58.51 1:58.13 1:58.13 1:57.9 1:57.66 1:56.76 1:56.81
400 IM 4:11.92 4:12.63 4:12.31 4:11.05 4:10.86 4:09.75 4:09.99

Cut Time Changes

14 vs 13 15 vs 14 16 vs 15 17 vs 16 18 vs 17 18 Line 40 vs 17
Average -0.09% -0.10% -0.16% -0.34% -0.34% -0.20%
50 Free -0.22% 0.00% -0.36% -0.40% 0.31% 0.31%
100 Free -0.37% 0.14% -0.25% -0.31% -0.19% 0.02%
200 Free -0.07% -0.08% -0.02% -0.46% -0.51% -0.42%
500 Free -0.04% 0.08% -0.17% -0.24% -0.48% -0.33%
1650 Free 0.10% -0.30% 0.05% -0.15% -0.40% -0.10%
100 Back -0.02% -0.43% -0.08% -0.53% -0.21% -0.08%
200 Back 0.35% -0.46% -0.17% -0.41% -0.32% -0.25%
100 Breast 0.10% -0.07% -0.13% -0.53% -0.38% -0.28%
200 Breast -0.17% 0.01% -0.26% -0.26% -0.31% -0.15%
100 Fly -0.13% -0.25% -0.04% -0.47% -0.21% -0.11%
200 Fly -0.68% 0.15% 0.04% -0.36% -0.52% -0.19%
200 IM -0.32% 0.00% -0.19% -0.20% -0.76% -0.72%
400 IM 0.28% -0.13% -0.50% -0.08% -0.44% -0.35%

Average Top 40 Time Changes

09 vs 08 10 vs 09 11 vs 10 12 vs 11 13 vs 12 14 vs 13 15 vs 14 16 vs 15 17 vs 16
Average -1.23% 0.58% -0.38% -0.10% -0.26% -0.29% -0.03% -0.13% -0.49%
100 Fly -1.42% 0.90% -0.39% -0.10% -0.26% -0.55% -0.07% -0.17% -0.47%
200 Fly -1.50% 0.70% -0.14% 0.01% -0.07% -0.56% -0.07% 0.02% -0.25%
50 Free -0.80% 0.86% -0.50% -0.31% 0.05% -0.58% -0.12% -0.01% -0.67%
100 Free -0.85% 0.90% -0.47% -0.18% 0.11% -0.59% -0.06% -0.05% -0.69%
200 Free -0.72% 0.65% -0.53% -0.02% -0.04% -0.21% -0.02% -0.11% -0.66%
500 Free -0.88% 0.46% -0.49% -0.04% -0.27% -0.05% 0.15% 0.08% -0.57%
1650 Free -0.81% 0.38% -0.32% 0.21% -0.33% -0.13% -0.08% 0.15% -0.58%
100 Breast -1.65% 0.53% -0.60% -0.25% -0.50% -0.01% -0.02% -0.06% -0.30%
200 Breast -1.71% 0.41% -0.53% -0.16% -0.38% -0.44% 0.42% -0.40% -0.18%
100 Back -1.85% 0.61% -0.31% -0.38% -0.42% -0.47% 0.02% -0.57% -0.42%
200 Back -1.67% 0.49% -0.07% 0.13% -0.90% 0.12% -0.62% -0.11% -0.53%
200 IM -1.04% 0.25% 0.13% -0.34% -0.31% -0.11% -0.07% -0.27% -0.43%
400 IM -1.11% 0.39% -0.69% 0.14% -0.07% -0.21% 0.15% -0.15% -0.65%

Average of Top 40 Times

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
100 Fly 52.95 52.19 52.66 52.46 52.4 52.27 51.98 51.94 51.85 51.61
200 Fly 1:57.14 1:55.39 1:56.20 1:56.03 1:56.04 1:55.96 1:55.31 1:55.23 1:55.25 1:54.96
50 Free 22.35 22.17 22.37 22.25 22.18 22.2 22.07 22.04 22.04 21.89
100 Free 48.66 48.25 48.68 48.46 48.37 48.42 48.14 48.11 48.09 47.75
200 Free 1:45.44 1:44.68 1:45.37 1:44.81 1:44.79 1:44.75 1:44.53 1:44.50 1:44.39 1:43.69
500 Free 4:42.52 4:40.05 4:41.33 4:39.94 4:39.82 4:39.06 4:38.92 4:39.34 4:39.57 4:37.99
1650 Free 16:13.86 16:05.95 16:09.60 16:06.50 16:08.55 16:05.32 16:04.09 16:03.34 16:04.74 15:59.14
100 Breast 1:01.16 1:00.15 1:00.47 1:00.10 59.95 59.65 59.64 59.63 59.59 59.42
200 Breast 2:12.38 2:10.12 2:10.64 2:09.95 2:09.73 2:09.24 2:08.67 2:09.21 2:08.70 2:08.46
100 Back 53.52 52.53 52.85 52.69 52.49 52.27 52.02 52.03 51.73 51.52
200 Back 1:55.55 1:53.62 1:54.17 1:54.10 1:54.24 1:53.22 1:53.35 1:52.65 1:52.52 1:51.92
200 IM 1:58.22 1:56.99 1:57.28 1:57.43 1:57.03 1:56.67 1:56.54 1:56.46 1:56.15 1:55.66
400 IM 4:11.68 4:08.89 4:09.87 4:08.13 4:08.49 4:08.32 4:07.79 4:08.16 4:07.79 4:06.17

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swimtroll

When you apply statistics to the NCAA selection rules you can see how much Ledecky is hurting college swimming. She is so amazing but statistically a huge outlier. Her meet records directly hurt distance swimmers and next year they will hurt 400IMers also. It would be much better for swimming if an average top meet times were used for selection. If we defined the poverty level in the country relative to the net worth of Jeff Bezos we would be by far the poorest country on Earth.

AquaTiger

I think in theory SwimTroll is correct. They select 30 swimmers, then add more based on their distance away from the meet record. This selection process was different before, but that’s the way it is now.

40 sprinters got invited in the 50, but only 36 got invited in the 500 or 1650.

But to be fair the 400IM (Ledecky record) had 37 invites, and the 100 back and 200 IM did as well (non-Ledecky records). The 100 free had 36 invites also (non-Ledecky record).

So I think in theory you are correct, but maybe it didn’t completely pan out that way in reality.

Dan

Would not have been 40 in the 50 free if it had not been a 4-way tie for 37th. Pretty sure that if there had been a 4-way tie in either the 500 or 1650 for the last spot, all of them would have been invited. It is 36th vs 37th spot as the last invite, if one more swimmer had gone under 22.30 it would have left the 50 free with 37 invited swimmers instead of 40. Think that more swimmers try to get in and focus on their single best event so there are fewer swimmers with multiple events under the cut time which moves the line up from 39/40 to 36/37. After all the number is set… Read more »

AvidSwimFan

This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Despite being ahead of everyone, their times are still taking into consideration. It’s not like her time is the determining factor, it’s the top times that matter. So while her time might be an outlier, it isn’t affecting anyone adversing. I’ll say instead of hurting other swimmers, she is challenging them to improve their own best times which has happened so many times, with her Stanford teammates, her national teammates, and even international competitors that I am surprised anyone would raise this point.

Here’s one that will really set swimtroll off – Taylor Worrell’s ranking in the tie-breaker…is based on her sister’s uber-fast 200 fly swim.

Klorn8d

I don’t see how her going fast hurts anyone else?

swimtroll

Due to the larger difference to her meet record distance swimmers will always be last on the line the selection process stops, thus first to be left out.

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