Details About California High School “State Championship Meet” Emerge

by Dean Ottati 12

March 03rd, 2014 High School, News

Editor’s note: there are still more details to be tracked down, including confirmation that all sections will be participating and factored into the ‘top 8 average.’ We will provide an update when we receive those details.

Last October, SwimSwam reported that the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF)  was considering a single state swimming championship (see article here).  It appears the CIF has approved the meet, beginning in 2015.

California high school athletics is broken into 10 largely independent sections.  Today, each section holds its own championship meet at the end of the season.  The date for the first California High School State Swimming Championship next year will be May 22 and 23, 2015 one week after the completion of the last section championship.  (Note: I’ve not yet confirmed that all sections have adopted the meet, only that some have).

Initial details indicate that swimmers will qualify to swim in the state meet in one of two ways: Automatic  Qualifiers, and At-Large Entries.

Automatic Qualifiers

Each of the 10 CIF sections will receive a fixed number of automatic entries, based on finish in the individual section championship meets.  The Southern Section, the largest of all of the CIF sections will receive 5 automatic entries, while the three smallest CIF sections Northern, San Francisco, and Oakland, will each receive 1 automatic entry.  While 7 of the 10 CIF Sections compete in swimming as a single  division, inside the Southern Section there are four separate divisions.   It isn’t yet clear how the 5 automatic entries will be allocated among the four divisions.  In track and field, where there are divisions within many of the CIF sections, those sections typically utilize one final “Meet of Champions” seeded with qualifiers from each division to determine who will receive the automatic entries into the state championship.  This is essentially what the “Masters” meet in the Southern Section used to be, but that meet was unpopular because it pushed the California high school swimming season even further into the long course season and it didn’t lead to a state championship.

At-Large Entries

Ultimately the plan is to make the CA high swimming championship look like the CA high school track and field championship where additional at large entries are based on the average 8th place time from the past few state meets.

But as there is no swimming state championship history from which to draw, the first year at-large entries will be based on the average 8th place time from each of the 10 CIF section championships.  This could lead to a very large meet in 2015.

How many swimmers in 2015?  A Back of the Envelope Calculation

While attempting to moonwalk away from the complete accuracy of the research and calculations performed, I wanted to try to get a sense of just how many swimmers there could potentially be involved in a 2015 State Championship with the rules as currently understood.  In track and field, it’s the runner’s time in the section championship meet that determines if the athlete meets the qualifying standard for an at-large bid to the State Championship.  Using this same assumption, and using the 8th fastest overall time across divisions within a section, I put together the following table for how many swimmers would have qualified for the men’s 200 free in 2013 (note, I was unable to find results for two of the sections, and there may be a second swimming division in the central section that I was unable to confirm):


In a state where a little more than 20 kids turned in a sub 1:40 200 free at their sectional championship meet, a 1:46.7 would have been fast enough to earn an at-large bid based on the average 8th place time across sections, and ~150 swimmers met that standard.  In terms of number of swimmers, 2015 has the potential to be a very large meet.

It’s worth noting that this should only be a one-year phenomenon.  Using a state 8th place qualifying standard instead of a sectional 8th place qualifying standard, the state track and field meet only has about three heats of qualifiers per event.

Some Additional Observations and Opinions

California high school swimming runs in a different cycle than high schools in most other states.  In part because almost all CA swimming takes place outdoors, a Spring championship is more likely to be swum in good weather than it is in the Fall or Winter seasons (Note: the CIF Northern Section runs a Fall swim season, and is the lone CIF section that does).  But, the downside is that a late May finish makes for a very short long course season for California high school swimmers.  A state meet after sectionals extends this problem (ala the “Masters” meet issue).  Next year, this will be an extra weighty consideration for the best of the California high school swimmers as 2015 is really the last full long course season to achieve an Olympic Trials qualifying time for 2016.

Seven years ago, the CIF introduced a California State Championship in football.  At first, it seemed like a bonus game after the section championships, but now it’s an integral and exciting part of the CA high school football season.  During the seven years since its inception, the CIF has shown to be very willing to continue to improve the format year after year.  Here’s to hoping the CIF will approach the state swimming championships in this same spirit.  This meet has the potential to become the Mother-of-All high school swim meets.  If this SwimSwamer had a vote, I’d vote to flip the water polo and swimming seasons, making swimming a Fall sport and Water Polo a Spring sport…I might also consider a more rigorous at-large standard in the first year.  But in the end, it will be great fun.

A copy of the proposal as voted upon in February can be found here:

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sam has the CIF-Los Angeles Section results

Dean Ottati

Sam (and Anne L – I like your work BTW), Thanks for this. I should have thought to look there. Between prelims, finals, and consolation finals, it looks like the 8th fastest time in the LA City section was about 1:51.28. Without going back to hand count all the section results again (CA HS swimming needs what CA HS track and field has, Dystat to keep all the times in a single data base), the LA City Section 8th place time will have the net effect of making the at-large qualifying time a little slower, allowing more swimmers into the meet. I suspect the results from the Oakland Section (It is a very small section with only about 8 schools)… Read more »


Flipping the seasons is the most logical move. But it is then a territorial battle and polo will block that from happening if they can. They rely heavily on recruiting the best incoming frosh swimmers as school starts and they indoctrinate them into how they will become stars. Polo is clearly more fun, swimming loses many this way on a regular basis. They then lose their fitness and don’t come back to club swimming. This is fine for many, but we lose the late bloomers in a long term development model. Most club coaches would not mind “losing” them to hs polo if it were a spring sport as they would be more likely to return. Tough dilema. Wish them… Read more »

The Beach

Suggestion: take the winners of each section and the next fastest swimmers for a total of 40 swimmers per event. Maybe 24 for relays. Seems simple…5 heats of individuals and 3 heats of relays. I like the idea of a fall season.

About Dean Ottati

At various time in his life, Dean has been a summer rec swimmer, an AAU swimmer (yes, he is that old), a swim coach, a swim team director (social suicide through volunteerism), a meet director, a starter, an official, and just about everything else a swimmer/parent can be.  He currently …

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