The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) is set to host the first Open Water Swimming Championships in conference history on October 21st. The event will take place at Marine Stadium in Long Beach, California, which will also play host to the open water swimming, water polo, and triathlon events at the 2028 Olympic Games.
Kaia Hedlund, the MPSF Associate Commissioner for Championships, told SwimSwam that the event was born out of a desire to create an open water event specifically for the NCAA. “We want to bring open water into the NCAA,” she said, and this event is the first step towards making that happen.
The one-day championship will feature the men’s 5K, women’s 5K, a mixed 4×500 meter relay, as well as a masters’ open 5K and 1K. It’s a scored championships, and the masters’ swimmers will also have the opportunity to earn points for their schools if they’re alums of an MPSF school.
The top three swimmers from each event and the top relay team contribute to their team’s score. The top three collegiate swimmers in the individual races also automatically qualify for the USA Swimming Open Water National Championships and the CSCAA National Championships.
Note: Does not include participating master swimmers’ alma maters
- California Baptist University
- Fresno State
- Grand Canyon University
- Loyola Marymount University
- Pepperdine University
- San Diego State University
- San Jose State University
- UC Santa Barbara
- University of Nevada – Reno
- University of the Pacific
- Whittier College
“It’s about making open water events viable,” Hedlund said. In the same way that college teams have been re-evaluting the way they approach dual meets, the team behind this championship had to think about what would attract people and make the event exciting. But for them, there was no playbook–they were starting from scratch.
They looked at hosting the meet in places like Phoenix, AZ or Las Vegas, NV, but eventually settled on Long Beach. In Long Beach, spectators are able to watch the whole race from the beach by walking up and down, they don’t have to wait until the finish to see what’s happening in the water. There will also be a livestream, an on-site announcer, and more fun things they hope will make the event feel special both for the athletes and the crowd.
Hedlund said they’ve been reaching out to clubs and high school teams in the area, getting the message out that “even if you don’t swim, at least come and cheer.” Also in attendance will be the CSCAA CEO and a committee member from the NCAA that looks into emerging sports, which is a status that the Hedlund is hoping to apply for soon.
To be recognized as an emerging sport, at least 20 varsity or competitive club teams need to exist at NCAA schools, and at least 10 NCAA schools need to sponsor (or intend to sponsor) the sport. To reach NCAA Championship sport status, 40 NCAA schools need to sponsor the sport.
Hedlund and her team are hoping that these MPSF Championships show that collegiate open water swimming can be an exciting and viable sport–one that belongs in the NCAA.