This past week, at the Virginia Swimming Long Course Age Group Championships, some controversy erupted (and spread fairly far throughout the swimming community) over a State-Record breaking relay that was DQ’ed for an early exchange. The 13-14 boys from South Eastern Virginia Aquatics (SEVA) swam a 1:43.13 in the 200 free relay that would have been a new state record.
As the picture above shows, this appears not to be an early start. At present, however, there is no procedure in place to overturn the ruling based on the above evidence.
First, a release from SEVA:
South Eastern Virginia Aquatics (SEVA) competed this past weekend at the Virginia Swimming Long Course Age Group Championships, at Virginia Tech’s Christiansburg Aquatic Center.
SEVA’s boys 13-14 400-meter freestyle relay broke the Virginia Swimming long course age-group record, going 3:47.27, breaking the 3:47.37 mark set in 2008 by the Coast Guard Blue Dolphins.
Nick Schwegel (14) opened the relay with a 56.92 split, followed by Zach Becouvarakis (14) in 58.20 and Chad Stickle (13) splitting 57.56. Jonathan Spires (14) brought it home, with a fast 54.59 split, touching in 3:47.37 for the record.
Spires (14) also won the individual 100-meter freestyle in 54.89, and set the Meet Record in the individual 200-meter free with a 1:58.20 (unofficialy, 8th fastest time in the USA in 13-14 age group this season).
Spires looks to do some damage to the record book in the short-course season as well, as he doesn’t turn 15 until December.
The meet was not without a healthy controversy, as the same four SEVA swimmers appeared to break the state age-group record in the 13-14 200 freestyle relay in 1:43.13 (breaking the old mark, 1:44.88, set by NOVA in 2006).
However, the SEVA relay was DQ’ed for “Early Takeoff by Swimmer #4”. Photographs and Video taken by spectators, reviewed later that night, indicated that it should not have been a DQ (see attached photo).
However, the evidence was ruled “not admissable” and the DQ ruling was not overturned.
Interestingly enough, the 2nd place relay, NOVA, was also under the state record time, going 1:43.37. NOVA’s relay of John McSorley, Aaron Schultz, Gavin Brown and Frederick Schubert are the new Virginia record holders.
The story may have a happy ending for the SEVA’s relay swimmers, as they will get another crack at the 200 freestyle relay 13-14 age group relay at this weekend’s Virginia Senior Championships in Richmond.
Throughout the world of sports, organizations are becoming more-and-more adept at using technology to ensure a level playing field, specifically with regards to officiating. There are some instances where there must be reservation used to prevent this technology from overwhelming the flow of a competition. Rules like limiting the number of challenges a football coach is able to use in a game, or not allowing basketball coaches to challenge personal foul calls, which would be just as subjective on camera as they would be in real life.
But swimming is in a unique situation. Largely-speaking, what happens in race 1 does not affect race 2. It might affect race 1 that evening, but only in rare instances of team scores do disqualifications change what would happen in the next race.
Yet, the sport still seems to be resistant to the technology. We have relay reaction pads, though those have been heavily questioned (and weren’t used in the meet in question). Yet, even the most basic of technologies has been ignored: visual evidence. In an era where everyone carries a high-resolution camera in their pockets, swimming still resists allowing visual evidence to be used to overturn a call even as simple as a relay exchange.
It’s time to take a hard look at these calls. There is plenty of time at a swim meet to examine the evidence without disrupting the flow of the competition. It would be an extremely cost-effective solution, even if implemented only for championship meets. Most importantly, it would take a lot of pressure off of officials, because when calls like this are made it is unrecoverable.