Every NCAA coach this weekend or next who has qualifiers for the NCAA Championships is worried first-and-foremost about their own teams.
At their hearts, though, nobody becomes a coach of a Division I NCAA qualifier without being a little bit of a swim geek. And what are this special class of swim geek buzzing about on Thursday afternoon as the women’s NCAA Championships begin?
Well, sort of the same thing we are: how slow the first preliminary session was.
Specifically, slower than seed. According to numbers shared by Nebraska coach Patrick Rowan (who gave credit to Louisville coach Arthur Albiero), only 45 out of 231 individual swims in this morning’s preliminary session improved their seed times. (Relay numbers were about the same, though those are a bit hokie as some teams swim less than their full relays in prelims).
200 free relay 23 entries, 6 imp, .261 %imp
500 free 61 entries, 9 imp, .148 %imp
200 IM 64 entries, 9 imp, .203 %imp
50 free 55 entries, 11 imp, .218 %imp
Total entries 231, 45 tot imp, .195 %imp
Hopefully things pick up in finals and as the meet wears on, though with the condensed NCAA schedule, it can be hard to bring further energy once swimmers get into their 9th, 10th, and 11th swims in just three days.
And this will be the downside of the new qualifying system. Whereas more mid-major swimmers, and swimmers from teams without relays, are qualifying for the meet under the new system (one that doesn’t award bonus swims for those who only qualify on relays), this also means that swimmers have to taper harder to just make NCAA Championship qualifying times than they’re used to.
If you thought the Olympic Trials were bad, this number is even worse than our sample from the Olympic Trials, which were plagued by the same slower-than-seed performances.
Is this good for swimming or bad for swimming? There are people who feel that every meet should count, and there are people who feel that only the last meet should count; the group we don’t hear from is the group who thinks that the qualifying meet for the last meet should count more than the last meet, unless at least said qualifying meet counts for more than qualifying. (Make sense?)
Then again, it’s better to be the swimmer who made the meet and didn’t beat her seed time than to be the swimmer who’s at home watching the live stream on her laptop. This is simply the “game” of college swimming, and how the system has been designed. Sports aren’t always about hitting the absolute peak of athletic performance, though in the swimming community we have a special affinity for those moments. Sports are about who can perform the best under a given set of circumstances, and that’s what the NCAA Championships have become a true measure of.