As we begin our preview coverage of the U.S. National Championships, it seems a good time to lay out the selection procedures for the U.S. National Team at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, which take place just two weeks after Nationals in Gold Coast, Australia.
As we discussed earlier today in our post outlining the 2015 World Championships selection criteria, Pan Pacs offer athletes a chance to improve their standing on the World Champs team in other events. Here’s quick breakdown:
The results of U.S. Nationals will determine the Pan Pacs team. The results of U.S. Nationals and Pan Pacs will combine to determine the World Champs team. The bottom line: swimmers who qualify for Pan Pacs can swim more events than just what they qualified in. That means a versatile swimmer like Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin could enter extra races at Pan Pacs in hopes of qualifying for Worlds in a few more events, particularly any relays they might not already be on.
(Though the U.S. can enter as many athletes as it wants in the heats, only 2 may swim in the finals of any given event. So after prelims, the coaching staff will have to select which two will swim if more than two make the final).
That makes U.S. Nationals even more important, as they will serve as the qualifying meet for Pan Pacs, 2015 Worlds, 2015 World University Games and 2015 Pan American Games – plus a Pan Pacs berth allows a swimmer another shot to improve their standing for 2015 Worlds. That’s what you call an important taper meet.
You can read the full Pan Pacs selection procedures by following this link. As the procedures can be somewhat complex, we’ve tried to boil it down to the basics below.
The biggest news out of all of this: if an athlete qualifies for Pan Pacs by placing in the top 4 of the 100 or 200 frees and then declines their spot on the team, USA Swimming will not go to the next fastest athlete to fill the slot. So if, for example, the 4th place finisher in the 200 free declines a spot on the team for whatever reason, USA Swimming will fill out the relay with an athlete already on the team in another event instead of inviting the 5th place finisher to fill the spot. That means 100/200 freestylers absolutely need to be top 4 to have any chance of making the Pan Pacs team. No one placing 5th or lower in any event will make the Pan Pacs team.
Pan Pacs qualification will only be in Olympic events. Even though the National Championships feature the 50s of fly, back and breast, the women’s 1500 and men’s 800, those events will not be used to qualify for the Pan Pacs team. Instead the non-Olympic events at Pan Pacs will be filled by athletes already on the team in a different event. Typically the qualifiers in the 100s of each stroke are given first priority on filling the 50s for their stroke. Swimmers can qualify for the 2015 Worlds team in non-Olympic races, though (the winners of each of those events at nationals should make the Worlds team).
The winner of each Olympic event will make the Pan Pacs team, plus the top 4 in the 100 and 200 freestyles, for relay purposes. After that, the next-fastest swimmer in each event will be added until the team hits its 26-person cap, all the way down to 4th place in any given event.
That 26-swimmer cap (26 men and 26 women, to be clear) means the top 3 in each event have a solid shot at making Pan Pacs, and 4th-place finishers, while unlikely to make the team, could still conceivably be selected if enough athletes double up, qualifying in more than one event.
Here’s a breakdown of the order USA Swimming will use to select the team:
Selection Procedure Priority Order – 2014 Pan Pacific Championships
- Priority 1: Top 4 in 100/200 freestyles and top 1 in each Olympic event added to team
- Priority 2: 2nd place swimmer in each Olympic event added
- Priority 3: 3rd place swimmer in each Olympic event added
- Priority 4: 4th place swimmer in each Olympic event added
Athletes in each priority are added until the team reaches 26 total swimmers. At that point, the roster is full and the lower priority athletes will not be added. Within a priority group, athletes are selected based on their world rank in the event. So a 3rd-place 100 butterflyer ranked 5th in the world will be selected before a 3rd-place 100 backstroker ranked 8th.
In summary: the top 4 in the 100/200 freestyles and the winner of each Olympic event will make the team. 2nd-4th place finishers in Olympic events will be added after that until the roster reaches 26 swimmers for each gender.
One more piece to note: with the quick turnaround between Nationals and Pan Pacs, the U.S. will send in its entries on Monday, August 11th by midnight Pacific Time. (Nationals end on the night of August 10th). After those entries are sent in, the team will not be adjusted even if members drop out for injuries or any other reason.
The Pan Pacs team will leave for Australia immediately following the conclusion of nationals, spending the next week in a training camp in Brisbane before competing in the Pan Pacific Championships on the Gold Coast of Australia from August 21-24.