USA Swimming released a rule change on May 8th stating that their sanctioned competitions will now circle-seed the final two heats in preliminary competition of 400 yard events, rather than three.
This change was implemented beginning last year but is now officially in the rulebook. To this point, the rulebook has stated that in major USA Swimming competitions, all events of a 400 yard distance have been swum with three circle-seeded heats.
This new rule changes deals specifically with the 400 IM in yards and states that the event will now have two circle-seeded heats to go along with the 400+ freestyle events. The 400/500, 800/1000 and 1500/1650 freestyle events will all remain under the current rule. They will only have two circle-seeded heats.
The main change that this will present is the fact that preliminary heats, especially at big meets, will condense the top swimmers. The 1st overall seed will swim next to the 3rd overall seed. The 2nd seed against the 4th and so on.
This rule also only applies to relays in preliminaries. As USA Swimming Championship relays are more often than not timed finals,the change won’t cause a great impact. For meets that do have short course prelims/finals relays though, they will now be seeded according to the rule change.
The rule changes were in parts B, C, and D of USA Swimming Rules 102.5.1. Those changes are outlined below:
- B. Three heats — Except for 400m/400y/500y, 800m/1000y and 1500m/1650y events, the fastest swimmer shall be placed in the third heat, next fastest in the second, next in the first. The fourth fastest swimmer shall be placed in the third heat, the fifth in the second heat, and the sixth fastest in the first heat, the seventh fastest in the third heat, etc.
- C. Four heats or more — Except for 400m/400y/500y, 800m/1000y and 1500m/1650y events, the last three heats of an event shall be seeded in accordance with B above. The heat preceding the last three heats shall consist of the next fastest swimmers; the heat preceding the last four heats shall consist of the next fastest swimmers, etc. Lanes shall be assigned in descending order of submitted times within each heat, in accordance with the pattern outlined in 102.5.
- D. For 400m/400y/500y, 800m/1000y and 1500m/1650y events, the last two heats of an event shall be seeded in accordance with 102.5.1A(2).