The USA Swimming Senior Development Committee has proposed significant changes to Sectional Championships, including meet size restrictions, universal qualifying times (sort of), and requiring one 18-and-under heat per event final. These changes are largely due to the rapidly expanding 13-and-over athlete base; the Sectionals Task Force found there has been a 40% increase in the number of 13-and-over USA Swimming members since the inception of Sectionals meets in 2000.
While some Sectional meets are well-run and highly effective for swimmers, others are bloated and overcrowded, highlighted by jammed warmup pools and five-hour preliminary sessions (pretty much all of us have been through one of these before). In an effort to equalize these meets and provide a more natural progression from to Junior Nationals and senior-level meets, the Senior Development Committee has proposed a number of countrywide changes.
A summary of the most important proposals:
- No Sectional meets will be longer than 3.5 days.
- The Summer Sectionals should conclude within an 8-22 day window prior to Senior Nationals/U.S. Open or Junior Nationals (whichever comes first).
- Spring and Summer Sectional meets must have one 18-and-under final heat. This a meet strategy USA Swimming has progressively utilized over the last couple of years, including last month at World Championship Trials.
- “Optimal” Sectional Championship sizes have been set based on whether or not a meet is run on one or two courses. For one course, optimal size is 700 athletes, while meets with two courses should not exceed 1000 athletes. If more than 800 athletes (one course) or 1100 athletes (two courses) are entered, the Zone must tighten the time standards, or split into two meets the following year.
- Each Sectional meet will have a final reserved for only 18-and-under athletes.
- Nation-wide time standards will be set yearly by the Senior Development Committee. To ensure enough participation in less populous zones, individual Sections can choose to have slower qualifying times (but not faster).