The Ohio High School Athletics Association (OHSAA) has expanded the number of State Championship qualifiers in individual events from 24 to 32 for the upcoming high school championship meets. Relays will remain at 24 qualifiers.
The Ohio high school swimming and diving season runs from October 28, 2022 through the state championship meets, which will be held from February 21-25, 2023.
Ohio advances qualifiers through its post-season system based on placement and times in each tier rather than by season-long qualifying standards, which some states use.
Besides expanding the number of qualifiers to the state meet, the state has also expanded to 32 qualifiers in individual events from the sectional meets to the district meets.
- Sectionals (February 6-11): 4 individual entries and 1 relay entry per event
- Districts (February 13-18): 32 individual entries and 1 relay entry per event advance from Sectionals
- State (February 21-25): 32 individual entries and 1 relay entry per event advance from Districts
Each of the two divisions (big school sand small schools) of the championship tournament is divided into four districts. In each individual event, each of those four districts gets three automatic qualifiers per individual event and two automatic qualifiers per relays. That totals 12 individuals and 8 relays that automatically qualify per event.
After that, the next 20 best times swum in district championship meets per individual event, and 16 per relay event, are invited as at-large births. The 32 divers are chosen based on a calculation of participation levels from each district meet.
This hybrid system, which advances swimmers based on a combination of placement and time, is used in several states, including Texas. That system has a few advantages: it keeps focus on the high school post-season, which can create parity as compared to allowing the best swimmers to qualify early in the year and coast through regional sub-state meets, which we see in some parts of the country.
It also balances representation from different parts of the state where swimming might not be as well-developed while ensuring that teams from more competitive areas aren’t substantially disadvantaged by the depth of their districts.
It is still possible for a swimmer with a slower time who was top 3 in their district to advance over an at-large time who was not top 3 in their district, with 20 at-large individuals, and 16 at-large teams, available, those situations become more marginal and less impactful on the team title races at the state meet.
Kate Barnett, a spokesperson for OHSAA, says that the recommendation to expand the fields came from the state’s coaches’ association and member schools, which is true with most changes to OHSAA regulations.
“The expansion of 32 individual qualifiers for swimming and diving is a positive change for the sport and will allow more participation opportunities for swimmers and divers to compete at the state tournament,” she said.
The Ohio High School Championship meets are held at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton, Ohio. The venue is part of a large sporting complex that includes the Pro Football Hall of Fame.