Four Big US Meets Marred By Starting-Wedge Malfunctions

It’s been a wild few weeks of racing across the world, with the World Championships, collegiate conference meets, high school state championships, LSC Championships, and Sectionals meets colliding into a giant whirlpool of racing.

With so many high-profile meets going on, there are lots of common threads, but one that wasn’t on the bingo card was “wedges breaking.”

In at least four of these meets in the same weekend, starting block malfunctions marred competition, leading to bigger questions about safety and whether new blocks are built to withstand the ever-growing power of elite swimmers.

The “biggest” one, literally, came at the Pro Swim Series meet in Westmont in the A-Final, where video captured by SwimSwam’s Coleman Hodges showed all of the blocks flexing hard at the start with the wedge moving behind him. It appeared to impact Dressel’s race, though the 21.84 he swam is still a great result relative to where he’s been the last 18 months.

At the Minnesota Last Chance meet, meanwhile, you can see Wisconsin swimmer Charlie Jones fully kick the wedge off the back of the block on his start.

The same thing happened at NAIA Nationals where Arizona Christian’s Edgar Betancourt lost his wedge in the 200 free prelims. He ultimately went 1:48.40 in that race, with the first 50 split being two seconds slower than in his personal best time. He would later go a lifetime best in the 1650 free for 13th place, demonstrating that it wasn’t an “off meet” for him.

Betancourt says that besides the impact of the push, the surpise impacted his focus. He didn’t ask for a reswim because it was just a “bonus race” for him, but he said that the same lane malfunctioned at least three times during the meet at the Columbus Aquatic Center in Columbus, Georgia.

Above videos: Minnesota Last Chance left, Westmont Pro Swim top right, NAIA Nationals bottom right.

But after I posted my Tweet on Monday, another occurrence popped onto my radar, this time from SwimSwam’s social media manager Jessica Stoddard, who is also a high school coach in Michigan.

“So lane 6 was wonky the whole meet, specifically when someone would move it. They had the college kids helping with the meet from Oakland University but they would have to mess with it all the time when someone would take it off or move it.

“Thankfully I did not have any swimmers in that lane but I saw it move a few times. It was locked in place on the left but the right side would move. They had to get some tools out and the college kids would have to come help with it a lot.”

Stoddard said that she discussed with other coaches, who indicated an issue with lane 4 as well. She had her swimmers put full weight into the wedge before the start so that if there was an issue, it would be identified before the buzzer.

We don’t have any good data on the incidence of this happening, but we have never heard this many reports of issues at this many meets at the same time. The incidents don’t seem to be isolated to any one brand or one specific style either.

It may be time to institute some kind of an updated testing or standards protocol for these blocks, as there seems to be very little accountability, even for championship hosts, in making permanent corrections to these kinds of issues. Perhaps the wedges are not engineered to withstand the repeated power of a modern elite swimmer, but with reswims not really solving the problem, it is time for the industry to inspect the issue at a deeper level and come up with a solution. If the technology to make the wedges work the way they’re intended 100% of the time (the same goes for the backstroke wedges, where we’ve also seen issues), then maybe the technology isn’t ready to be rolled out to the sport yet.

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Andynic1972
2 months ago

Horizon league champs harry nicholson in 100 back final wedge broke costing race win

FLMamaof3
2 months ago

Saw this many times over the course of the Florida Sr Champs this past weekend in Ocala. It started on the 1st race of the meet (1000 Free). Womens side of the pool got through 2 heats before mens even started due to issues with blocks.

KEVINM
Reply to  FLMamaof3
2 months ago

The delay on Thursday night in Ocala was due to a swimmer stepping on the plug for the touchpad, breaking it off in the port. It had to be fished out of the port before a replacement pad could used. source: I was the guy trying to fish the plug out of the port

John Smachetti
2 months ago

We have had a rash of the spring pins for our wedges break in the last 12 months. It does seem to happen more in the boys season than the girls season. I keep a repair kit handy, along with spare spring pins, we also have a spare wedge. In the past week, in 2 of the 5 state meets I hosted, we had 2 pings break and a wedge come off (wedge is not broken, I suspect it wasn’t locked in). With the spare wedge, I can swap it out between heats in about 5 minutes, then repair the broken one in 10 minutes.

The cost of the replacement spring pin is ridiculous. They sell a 2-pack for $223.… Read more »

FLMamaof3
Reply to  John Smachetti
2 months ago

Same at our pool although it was “only” $195 per two pack for.

Swim Mom 2025
2 months ago

My Son swam Finals in both Lane 4 & 6 during the D1 Championship at Oakland and said there were issues with the block. On the live stream you can see him & the college timer working to get Lane 4 stable before the start of the race .

SwimCoach
2 months ago

Block maintenance and upkeep is largely overlooked. It’s not even just issues with fins. I have been at too many meets where 1 or 2 of the blocks are loose even to the point of turning to the side slightly when a swimmer starts.

M L
2 months ago

It would be helpful to report the makes and models of the malfunctioning equipment.

Champ
Reply to  M L
2 months ago

Not the heavy-duty block you see at many big meets, but experiencing issues with KDI Paragon wedges (club, HS and small college dual/invite use)

NAIA
2 months ago

columbus GA should never host a big meet (blocks are kiefer??)

Coach Ryan
Reply to  NAIA
2 months ago

Agree, we had our senior state meet there this past summer. Everyone(almost everyone) thought if there were storms we could continue the meet, it is indoors after all. Lighting on day 2 and a 2 hr delay.

Point of note
2 months ago

The westmont pro series brings in omega and they put block tops on the blocks, so maybe that affected the block, also women’s big tens had all sorts of issues with blocks and relay take off under the dak system

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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