Who Got Faster? Improvement at D1 Men’s Conference Meets

All the D1 men’s conference meets have been completed. We know who won the meets. We know who lost. But many swimmers and programs don’t measure success by how their team placed at the meet or if they gained 50 points over last year. Many people just want to go faster. Maybe their top swimmer is injured. Maybe their recruiting class was down this year. Even for top teams, simply dropping time and performing well is enough to make a meet a success. To that end, I’ve attempted to measure who dropped the most time.

Last week I did a similar analysis for D1 women’s conferences.

Methodology

So how do we measure who dropped the most time? It’s a more complicated question than it seems. First the methodology I used.

  1. Grab every conference and nationals time from the last 4 years
  2. Find a swimmer’s previous best time in an event at a conference or national meet
  3. For times at conference meets this year, compare to a swimmer’s previous best conference/nationals time. If there is no previous best time move on

There are pros and cons to this method. By limiting previous best times to conference and nationals, we can be pretty sure that the swimmers baseline time was a rested swim that they were focused on.  This means we’re not giving credit to swimmers who pick up a new event for getting way faster when the main explanation for the improvement was a change of focus. (for example, I switched from the 500 to the 200 IM my senior year in college. My 200 IM at conference was a 5.5 second PR, but most of that improvement was because I’d never swum it rested before. My team’s improvement percentage shouldn’t benefit from this. If I had tapered it before, the improvement would have been much smaller. Therefore, this time isn’t included). This method has the downside of leaving out best times achieved at mid season meets, but that’s a small price to pay for relatively clean data.

There are always a few swimmers  who enter the 50 and swim obscenely slow times. The most egregious tanking was tossed as outliers. For example, Penn State’s Gunter Cassell swam a 25.57 50 free. His previous best was 21.64, an add of 18%. Clearly something wasn’t on the level here. Either an injury, or saving energy for other events seem plausible (edit: apparently in this case, he was swimming breaststroke). Penn State’s ranking shouldn’t be punished for either, so it’s tossed.

Another flaw is that freshman performing extremely well makes a team do worse in this metric. Fast freshman times mean that swimmer’s baseline times are better, so it’s harder to drop time from them. Also because high school and club times aren’t included, team’s don’t get credit for freshman PR’s. Similarly, slow freshman times followed by fast times later will make a team look good. This isn’t a fatal flaw but it is worth keeping in mind while reviewing this data. Until there’s a single unified database for all swim times, I’m not sure there’s an easy fix to this issue.

Results

On average swimmers dropped .14% from their conference/nationals PR’s at conference meets this year (standard deviation 1.7% median .21%). There were 4357 data points. 2429 were faster or 56%. The data followed a pretty symmetric normal distribution (if anything there’s a slight skew to the right. positive is slower, negative is faster):

The top performing team was Mt St Mary’s which dropped an average of 1.54% on 7 swims. They are a new program with a small number of repeated swims, so an extreme result isn’t surprising. Next was a pair of major conference teams, Texas A&M and Virginia. A&M dropped an average of 1.53% on 37 swims, 84% of their swimmers were faster. Virginia dropped an average of 1.25% on 42 swims, 88% faster. The only other major conference team in the top 10 was NC State who dropped 1.04% on 33 swims, 70% faster. Making these team’s performances more impressive is the fact that among power 5 conference teams in the women’s improvement data Texas A&M were 2nd, NC State were 3rd, and Virginia were 5th.  NC State and Virginia each have the same head coach for their men’s and women’s programs, but Texas A&M do not. Jay Holmes coaches the men and Steve Bultman coaches the women. The top men’s and women’s programs did not always line up. The 4th women’s power 5 team, Georgia Tech, were 3rd to last overall among the men with an average add of 1.02%.

Among smaller conference teams, Monmouth, Fairfield, St Bonaventure, GWU, and UCSB were in the top 20 for both genders.

Three of the top eight performing men’s teams came from power 5 conferences. This is in contrast to the women where the top 9 performing teams were from smaller conferences. After the top 8 15 of the next 17 top performing men’s teams were from small conferences, so the trend of those team dominating the top of the rankings is mostly intact here.  This trend isn’t surprising as there are quite a few more small conference teams.

While the vast majority of teams fully rested for their conference meets, there are teams (ex Texas) who haven’t fully tapered yet, so this data doesn’t paint a full picture for them.  It’s worth noting that Texas added an average of .65% to their conference/nationals PR’s at their conference meet. At their conference meet last year they added an average of .14%. It appears they had a bit less rest this year than last year.

Data

Negative is faster. Positive is slower

School Average Change Number of Times How Many Dropped Time Conference
Mt St Marys -1.54% 7 57% Northeast Conf
Texas A&M -1.53% 37 84% SEC
Virginia -1.25% 42 88% ACC
Monmouth -1.25% 19 89% MAAC
Miami Ohio -1.23% 33 79% MAC
Fairfield -1.21% 26 73% MAAC
Wis.- Milwaukee -1.13% 22 82% Horizon League
NC State -1.04% 33 70% ACC
Villanova -1.03% 42 79% Big East
Cal Poly -0.99% 32 72% Mountain Pacific
Princeton -0.93% 15 87% Ivy League
GWU -0.87% 42 74% Atlantic 10
Florida St -0.83% 30 70% ACC
Yale -0.79% 34 79% Ivy League
UCSB -0.75% 54 63% Mountain Pacific
Wisconsin -0.74% 40 75% Big Ten
St. Bonaventure -0.73% 31 77% Atlantic 10
Pacific -0.73% 37 70% Mountain Pacific
Howard -0.73% 20 50% CCSA
Maine -0.72% 20 65% America East
Seattle U -0.69% 37 65% WAC
Columbia -0.69% 43 74% Ivy League
Wis.- Green Bay -0.68% 33 73% Horizon League
Air Force -0.67% 19 79% WAC
Canisius -0.67% 37 73% MAAC
Iowa -0.65% 48 81% Big Ten
UNC Wilmington -0.65% 30 57% CAA
Missouri -0.64% 36 83% SEC
Pittsburgh -0.62% 21 62% ACC
Minnesota -0.59% 29 69% Big Ten
Dartmouth -0.58% 28 79% Ivy League
South Dakota -0.57% 29 59% The Summit League
Michigan -0.53% 46 65% Big Ten
Cleveland St -0.53% 24 71% Horizon League
Notre Dame -0.51% 33 67% ACC
St. Louis -0.50% 33 61% Atlantic 10
Indiana -0.49% 33 64% Big Ten
Kentucky -0.48% 29 59% SEC
Ball State -0.42% 31 52% MAC
Eastern Mich -0.42% 39 56% MAC
George Mason -0.42% 29 55% Atlantic 10
Towson -0.38% 37 65% CAA
Harvard -0.38% 34 74% Ivy League
Purdue -0.35% 43 63% Big Ten
Virginia MI -0.34% 30 57% CCSA
LSU -0.32% 31 68% SEC
Rider -0.31% 42 52% MAAC
Tennessee -0.30% 47 51% SEC
Missouri St. -0.30% 43 63% MAC
Bryant U -0.28% 40 65% MAAC
Utah -0.25% 41 59% Pacific 12
Xavier -0.24% 33 61% Big East
La Salle -0.24% 31 65% Atlantic 10
Drexel -0.22% 39 56% CAA
Valparaiso -0.22% 30 53% The Summit League
SIUC -0.20% 45 60% MAC
Davidson -0.19% 39 56% Atlantic 10
Lehigh -0.18% 27 59% The Patriot League
Northwestern -0.18% 29 55% Big Ten
Duke -0.16% 21 67% ACC
Arizona -0.13% 41 66% Pacific 12
Incarnate Word -0.12% 42 60% CCSA
Cincinnati -0.12% 29 55% AAC
Evansville -0.10% 37 51% MAC
Loyola MD -0.10% 42 52% The Patriot League
Ohio St -0.09% 40 53% Big Ten
U.S. Navy -0.09% 82 54% The Patriot League
Holy Cross -0.08% 34 59% The Patriot League
Army -0.05% 25 44% The Patriot League
Louisville -0.04% 25 60% ACC
California -0.04% 52 50% Pacific 12
West Virginia -0.02% 53 55% Big 12
Colgate -0.02% 26 58% The Patriot League
Fordham -0.02% 33 48% Atlantic 10
CSUB -0.01% 40 55% WAC
Boston College -0.01% 30 43% ACC
Brigham Young 0.01% 30 60% Mountain Pacific
American 0.03% 17 41% The Patriot League
South Carolina 0.04% 39 46% SEC
UNLV 0.07% 29 52% WAC
Iona Coll 0.08% 42 50% MAAC
Oakland 0.11% 33 48% Horizon League
Auburn 0.11% 33 58% SEC
Cornell 0.12% 28 61% Ivy League
Michigan St 0.12% 44 52% Big Ten
Arizona St 0.12% 25 48% Pacific 12
Connecticut 0.12% 31 61% AAC
Georgia 0.13% 34 56% SEC
Denver 0.14% 39 44% The Summit League
Providence 0.14% 33 52% Big East
South Dakota St 0.15% 23 30% The Summit League
Penn 0.17% 36 44% Ivy League
Penn St 0.18% 31 55% Big Ten
Virginia Tech 0.18% 23 61% ACC
Saint Peters 0.19% 14 43% MAAC
Bucknell 0.20% 49 45% The Patriot League
Illinois-Chicago 0.21% 21 57% Horizon League
TCU 0.23% 39 46% Big 12
Wyoming 0.23% 41 44% WAC
Old Dominion 0.24% 14 36% CCSA
Seton Hall 0.24% 48 44% Big East
Wright State 0.24% 28 39% Horizon League
Stanford 0.28% 45 47% Pacific 12
Marist 0.28% 48 46% MAAC
Grand Canyon 0.30% 32 50% WAC
William & Mary 0.30% 38 42% CAA
SMU 0.30% 43 40% AAC
Florida 0.32% 39 33% SEC
Eastern Ill 0.35% 28 39% The Summit League
Western Ill 0.37% 21 43% The Summit League
Delaware 0.40% 24 38% CAA
Binghamton 0.41% 35 34% America East
UNC 0.41% 28 36% ACC
St. Francis 0.43% 14 50% Northeast Conf
Lafayette 0.47% 24 38% The Patriot League
East Carolina 0.48% 50 38% AAC
IUPUI 0.49% 30 40% Horizon League
Niagara 0.53% 45 38% MAAC
Manhattan 0.54% 12 58% MAAC
Alabama 0.59% 22 41% SEC
Texas 0.65% 53 36% Big 12
Southern Cali 0.66% 48 40% Pacific 12
Boston U 0.71% 30 30% The Patriot League
Gardner-Webb 0.75% 44 36% CCSA
Fla Atlantic 0.83% 32 34% CCSA
Georgetown 0.84% 38 34% Big East
Georgia Tech 1.02% 29 24% ACC
NJIT 1.15% 32 44% CCSA
Massachusetts 1.25% 33 24% Atlantic 10

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Al Albertson

Just to clarify, Virginia is 3rd on this list. That means they are not the best. Numbers don’t lie. #dealwithit #undesorboeffect

ACC fan

Weird Al , glad to see you’re back! After licking your wounds with all the UVA recruiting commits the last few weeks. I guess resting in January should be the new standard. I know data is not your thing so its time to find Crusty and have a hot cocoa!

Al Albertson

Bippity, Boppity, Boo!

Swimmy

Will we begetting these for other divisions?

SwimBro19

What other divisions?

Coach John

2 and 3

Cmon

That’s a little to must to ask

Nathan Smith

A D3 swimmer wouldn’t be writing sentences this painful

DivII

Why is that to must to ask?

Jmanswimfan

Really cool article

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