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