SwimSwam Pulse: 48% Liked Timed Final Relays Better At 2021 NCAAs

SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side, or you can find the poll embedded at the bottom of this post.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers whether they liked the NCAA’s timed-final relay format in 2021:


Question: Do you like timed final relays better or worse than the typical prelims/finals NCAA format?

  • Better – 48.9%
  • Worse – 40.4%
  • The same – 10.7%

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA pared down its meet schedule, compressing relays to timed finals only in finals sessions.

In a narrow 48.9%-to-40.4% decision, SwimSwam voters said they liked the new format better than the typical prelims/finals format.

The big advantage of timed finals for athletes is that it effectively saves a swim – athletes don’t have to build a prelims relay leg into their meet schedules, and can focus more on individual races and finals relays. For some fans, the timed finals format also took away a key advantage for the top programs: the ability to rest their best swimmers by swimming alternates on relays in prelims and still making the top 8.

On the flip side, timed finals does cut down on the head-to-head aspect, as we often had relays racing each other across heats. Watching one team swim and comparing splits just isn’t quite the same as watching two teams battling it out side-by-side.

The pandemic, of course, added a second wrinkle: spacing out relays with just four teams in the pool at a time. The clean water in the empty lanes between relays led to some outstanding times overall, though it was also another very visible reminder of how different this year has been in competitive sport.

About 10.7% of people liked the new format exactly the same as the old format.


Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks voters whether the Texas Longhorns can defend their national team title even with longtime head coach Eddie Reese retiring at the end of the summer:

Will Texas repeat as NCAA Champions with a new coach next season?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...



A3 Performance is an independently-owned, performance swimwear company built on a passion for swimming, athletes, and athletic performance. We encourage swimmers to swim better and faster at all ages and levels, from beginners to Olympians.  Driven by a genuine leader and devoted staff that are passionate about swimming and service, A3 Performance strives to inspire and enrich the sport of swimming with innovative and impactful products that motivate swimmers to be their very best – an A3 Performer.

The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
7 months ago

I totally understood it for the pandemic, but not being able to guarantee the best teams racing each other stinks.

Sun Yangs Hammer
7 months ago

Even if Texas hired someone like Shane Tusup or Bobo Gigi, with their level of talent on the roster and incoming, it would take a few years at worst, to become non competitive for the title. They’re just too deep and Cal is graduating a bunch of guys

Reply to  Sun Yangs Hammer
7 months ago

At the end of the day, Eddie Reese doesn’t swim, it’s the swimmers that swim and the culture that Reese has created wins the championships

7 months ago

Texas is returning over 300 individual points, no one else seems to be returning over 200. Hard to see them not repeating next year.

7 months ago

I hate the timed finals relays

7 months ago

I think they’re generally pretty good. Faster times, more rest for the swimmers. Post-COVID when all eight teams are swimming at once instead of four it’ll be perfect.

7 months ago

I think it’s important to remember that they only had 4 teams per heat due to the pandemic. In normal times, 8 teams per heat will essentially the best teams race other in the final heat. With that in mind, I’m for the timed final relays moving forward.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

Read More »