New Invite Rules Mean Top-10 Ranked NAIA Swimmers Won’t Qualify for Nationals

The NAIA has announced the list of qualifiers for the 2022 men’s and women’s swimming & diving championships, and the list was not published without controversy.

The 2022 NAIA Swimming & Diving Championships will be held in Columbus, Georgia at the Columbus Aquatic Center on March 2-5.

The selection procedures for the NAIA National Championship meet mirrors those at the NCAA pretty closely, with a few key exception as noted below.

The first priority for invitation is swimmers with Automatic Qualifying Standards. Those athletes can swim two additional individual events, regardless of their times in those races.

Next, teams that have Automatic Qualifying Standards in relays are invited. Once a team has an AQS in a free relay, they are eligible to swim all free relays, and once they have an AQS in a medley relay, they are eligible to swim all medley relays, though only the swimmers on the invited relays or other individual invitees are eligible (i.e., teams can’t bring ‘extra’ relay swimmer who weren’t otherwise invited as individuals or as part of an AQS relay).

Relay invited swimmers can swim any races in which they have a Provisional Standard.

This differs in a few key ways from the NCAA: with how teams are able to bring extra relays once they have an “A” cut relay, whether relay swimmers count against the invite cap (they don’t in the NCAA), and relay alternates.

From there, the process is very similar to the NCAA. Athletes are invited line-by-line from across the events until the cap is hit.

Only 8 male and 8 female divers earn invites.

The meet is capped at 300 swimmers (140 men & 160 women) and 16 divers.

This year’s meet will feature 168 total male competitors and 176 total female competitors. That is a significant reduction from previous championships: in 2020, there were 214 men and 265 women qualified for the meet. That number is also over the cap – though it’s not clear why.

While many NAIA coaches agree that the meet needed to be cut down, the pendulum may have swung too far.

In some cases, athletes who rank in the top 8 of the NAIA so far this season haven’t been invited.

One example of that is Olivet Nazarene sophomore Connor Harrison. He was the KCAC conference champion in the 200 fly, and currently ranks 8th in the NAIA in that event.

Because of the new cap rules, Harrison won’t swim at the NAIA National Championship meet, though.

Every other top 15 swimmer in the NAIA in the 200 fly is qualified, either by way of a relay invite or by being in one of the top X swimmers in each race.

While many top swimmers in a lot of events are on their schools’ relays, this effect tends to hit smaller or newer teams, that don’t have qualified relays, and distance swimmers the hardest – the latter because they are less likely to swim relay events. Other examples include Segel Acuna from Keiser, who is ranked 12th in the 1650 free.

The problem stems from the sheer number of relays that hit automatic qualifying times. There are 18 in the women’s 200 free relay, for example, and 22 in the men’s 200 medley relay. The 22 relays in the men’s 200 medley relay already absorb more than half of the qualifying spots for the meets, without accounting for the other four relays or automatic individual qualifiers.

Other schools have been hit by the 18 swimmer-per-team (with divers counting as half) as well, though that is similar to other levels of collegiate swimming & diving.

The NAIA is one of the biggest and fastest areas of growth in college swimming right now, and this tightening, and its impact on the integrity of the championship meet, could shape the future of the division.

This issue has struck across multiple teams, with several reaching out to SwimSwam to express frustration over the last 24 hours. So far, the NAIA administration has declined to change the selection policy to address the issue, according to coaches who have reached out to the organization.

The NAIA has not responded to SwimSwam’s request for comment or explanation of why the cap has already been exceeded.

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Helen Verplanke
11 months ago

Imagine being in the pool, all suited up warming up in Columbus GA at the National Championship Meet..and being told as you get out the pool that there’s been a mistake and you can’t swim. Yep, happened my my freshman who’s there with a B cut in the mile. Coach put in an appeal with the NAIA and it was rejected. I’m not sure where the blame lies but it sure as hell isn’t with the swimmer who has been shafted and is now questioning her future in swim….way to crush a swimmers spirit…

NAIA swimmer
Reply to  Helen Verplanke
11 months ago

I agree the system sucks but your daughter is not listed on the qualifiers by school linked below. Also, if she wasn’t on any qualifying relays an 18:51 in the mile, although a b cut is nowhere near fast enough to qualify with the new system. I think this one is the coaches fault, if he has just read the rules and paid attention to the lists, this would have never happened.

https://d2o2figo6ddd0g.cloudfront.net/r/w/c6n292wmqfrg3a/W_Qualifiers.pdf

NAIASWIMMER
11 months ago

I just do not understand what was wrong with the selection process prior to Covid. The system before covid had clear rules and swimmers knew whether they were going or not. Now you have kids who are top in the nation in their event and are being shut out of the meet they worked so hard to get to. I just think swimming is a very inclusive sport and these rules are just making it exclusive and also harder on the coaches.

R mueller
11 months ago
Parent of swimmer
Reply to  R mueller
11 months ago

Last Friday – the 18th

Lazirous
Reply to  Parent of swimmer
11 months ago

This isn’t official psych sheet

JL parent
11 months ago

The way I see it, the NAIA needs to decide which is more important, the individual swimmers or relays. My humble opinion, at a minimum the top 24 individuals in each event should compete and get first priority. Then fill out the next 8 spots with the fastest in each respective event with relay members while still limiting teams to 18 members. If that doesn’t complete the field of 32 for each event then it goes back to the next fastest individual.

JL parent
Reply to  Braden Keith
11 months ago

No I have not had a chance, but the more I think about it, I would limit the relays to the top 16 seeds. Also limit one relay team per school per event.

Last edited 11 months ago by JL parent
Tigerkid
Reply to  JL parent
11 months ago

1 relay per team? Teams can’t put B relays in

JL parent
Reply to  Tigerkid
11 months ago

That’s correct.

RJB
Reply to  Tigerkid
11 months ago

If some top 8 swimmers aren’t allowed in individual events, there certainly shouldn’t be B relays.

JBS
Reply to  RJB
11 months ago

B relays are not allowed. Only 1 relay per team. But coaches were able to enter the B-cut swimmers into the meet on relays.

Last edited 11 months ago by JBS
R mueller
Reply to  JL parent
11 months ago

Agreed – wondering where Swimcould came up with the published championship psych sheet?

Matthew Shirley
11 months ago

Ah yes, the Kenyon relay swimmers rule in its full glory. My opinionated opinion is that you ought to at least have a B cut to swim in any event (including and especially the relays). It won’t solve the problems listed above, but it will at least prevent individual swimmers who make B cuts, but not get invited to the meet, having to see times in the meet that are substantially slower than their times.

R mueller
Reply to  Matthew Shirley
11 months ago

Agree on this point as well.

Tigerkid
Reply to  Matthew Shirley
11 months ago

You need B cuts to swim if you’re a relay invite swimmer

Me.
Reply to  Tigerkid
11 months ago

I wish that was true, but there are schools sending full relay teams of women who do not even have provisional cuts individually.

currentnaiaswimmer
Reply to  Matthew Shirley
11 months ago

this is already true…?

Former athlete
11 months ago

This is the second year in a row that the NAIA has decided to just stop trying to find solutions for their swimming athletes. After throwing away a National Championship last minute because they didn’t want to attempt to solve anything you would think they’d like to prove that they have the best interest of the athlete in mind. This selection process is showing that they go with whatever idea comes to them first so they don’t have to try to hard. Some major BS coming from the NAIA right now.

1650 Onetrick
11 months ago

Like everyone else has been saying, the relay prioritization is really hurting distance swimmers. Apparently 7th rank in the 1650 James Granger doesn’t get invited somehow. Are they even gonna fill out a full heat of the mile?

Lazirous
Reply to  1650 Onetrick
11 months ago

Granger didn’t swim at his conference meet…

Dawg Talk
Reply to  Lazirous
11 months ago

Neither did Bobby Finke. Are we gonna keep him out of the NCAA’s in a few weeks because of this logic?

Tigerkid
Reply to  Lazirous
11 months ago

Just wait for the official psych sheet my guy

Alan S
Reply to  1650 Onetrick
11 months ago

James Granger hasn’t swam since December.

Last edited 11 months ago by Alan S
Steven Gauvin
11 months ago

Seems the NAIA is just lazy! Why would they make relay swimmers Automatic? Why not just use everyones individual times, and then cap the meet accordingly? And what’s up with this small cap? I’ve been to bigger Middle school meets?

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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