Why Did the Official Hold the Start of the Men’s 50 Free ‘A’ Final For So Long?


After day 1 of the 2023 Men’s NCAA Championships, the conversation has been focused around how fast the swimming was across-the-board, and how slow the start was in the men’s 50 free ‘A’ final. The starter held the men’s NCAA 50 free ‘A’ final for a longer-than-usual time on the blocks before the sounding buzzer. SwimSwam’s sources have confirmed that the long pause was because of Jordan Crooks not coming set, meaning being completely still, on the block.

Tennessee sophomore Crooks seemed to be the most affected by this pause, having the slowest reaction time in the entire field of 16 finalists with a time of .74. He still won the ‘A’ final with a blistering time of 18.32.

According to the rules, if Crooks had delayed in responding to the “take your mark” command, it would have been appropriate for the official to have the heat stand up. But, because Crooks did respond immediately to that command, and was just very slow in coming set, the rules were less clear as to whether the official should stand swimmers up. By the rules, it seems that either standing them up, or starting the race, was the correct procedure, based on the official’s judgment.

Here is the official rule per the NCAA Swimming and Diving rules book:

When a swimmer does not respond promptly to the command “take your mark,” the starter shall immediately release the swimmers with the command “stand up” upon which the swimmers may stand up or step off the blocks. A swimmer shall not be disqualified for an illegal starting position at the start if the race is permitted to proceed. Enforcement of the correct starting position is the responsibility of the starter.

Something similar happened on the leadoff leg of the men’s 200 free relay, though Crooks never did get set in that race – the starter missed it, or ignored it, and started the race anyway.

Men’s 50 Free Race Video

Crooks was in lane four for the 50 free ‘A’ final and you can see him slowly pulling himself down into position and then leaning back slightly. He does appear to come to a full stop, though because of the cameraman moving behind him, there’s a bit of a visual illusion that he doesn’t stop. The crowd can be heard audibly objecting to the length of the pause before the start.

You can see a similar technique at the SEC Championships where he went 17.93 to become the second man ever under 18 seconds in the event.

Top 8:

  1. Jordan Crooks, Tennessee — 18.32
  2. Josh Liendo, Florida — 18.40
  3. Bjorn Seeliger, Cal — 18.67
  4. Brooks Curry, LSU — 18.76
  5. Youssef Ramadan, Virginia Tech — 18.82
  6. Jack Alexy, Cal — 18.87
  7. Jack Dolan, ASU — 19.15
  8. Gui Caribe, Tennessee — 19.16

Men’s 200 Free Relay Race Video

You can see Crooks leading off in lane six where he seemed to not come to a complete stop again. The officials missed it this time, or Tennessee could have been called for a false start.

Top 8:

  1. Florida (J. Liendo, A. Chaney, E. Friese, M. McDuff) — 1:13.35 (NCAA Record)
  2. Cal (B. Seeliger, J. Alexy, L. Bell, D. Lasco) — 1:13.82
  3. NC State (N. Henderson, N. Korstanje, L. Miller, D. Curtiss) — 1:14.44
  4. Tennessee — 1:14.68
  5. ASU — 1:15.06
  6. Virginia — 1:15.26
  7. Texas — 1:15.58
  8. Virginia Tech — 1:15.67

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1 year ago

For future reference, there seems to be some confusion about the NCAA rules. Referencing the current rulebook (https://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/SW23.pdf) rule 2-1-1 (which is more or less identical to USA Swimming rules):

On the starter’s command “take your mark,” the swimmers shall immediately assume their starting position, in the forward start, with at least one foot at the front of the starting platform or the deck. … When all swimmers are stationary, the starter shall give the starting signal.

Stationary in this context does not mean motionless. The best interpretation of “stationary” in the starting sense is that if you drew a glass box around the swimmer once they assume their starting position, if the swimmer… Read more »

1 year ago

Why are so many people being annoying about this race? Seriously, who cares? Things happen. The outcome would likely not have been different. I saw a comment saying this race put a damper on the entire event (what are you on about). This will likely go down as the best Men’s NCAAs of all time, and you are going to whine about the start of a race? Why, because you thought there were going to be 3 17s, and your prediction didn’t happen? So much copium, it is honestly pretty wild.

1 year ago

DQ him end of drama – Just follow the rules.

Reply to  Bupwaa
1 year ago

This! Sometimes the swimmers can try to control the start. Sometimes it’s on purpose, sometimes it’s not. Either way, when the swimmer manages to control the start by a slow getting “set” (Aka still), I think it’s a tremendous advantage to the slow to set swimmer. They know as soon as they get set .. beep. They can anticipate the start better than the rest of the field. Maybe the starter noticed this was possible at the relay start and was trying to be certain for the 50 start. I am guessing he was nearly DQed or step down and ref chat.

1 year ago

Justthereforfun….the REF not the starter,CAN go to a swimmer and ask him not to move. Jordan was moving…so “stand up” command is done,talk to the swimmer, and try again. If he does it again,he then is DQ. Sounds like a lot,but is not wasted time…it is a FAIR start for ALL swimmers…including Crooks.

Reply to  JayR
1 year ago

Trust me, if that happens and Crooks ends up going 18.3 anyways, people will still blame the starter for asking the swimmers to stand up

1 year ago

Step 1 is to tell the cameramen to not freaking MOVE during the start!

1 year ago

If a swimmer is moving too long after “Take your mark” is stated, then you start as per usual and that moving swimmer is disqualified as per the rules. You don’t ruin 7 other guys’ entire season (and put a massive damper on the meet as a whole, given that it’s unequivocally one of the most exciting events) because one can’t get his crap together.

Douglass Wharrram Fan Club
1 year ago

Just another reason to believe this man –comment image

Happy Slappy
1 year ago

1) be ready for the starting procedure, it might affect your performance.
2)brighter caps are easier to focus on, the more contrast the easier it is to see.

Dude was slow off the blocks and still smoked the field.

About Annika Johnson

Annika Johnson

Annika came into the sport competitively at age eight, following in the footsteps of her twin sister and older brother. The sibling rivalry was further fueled when all three began focusing on distance freestyle, forcing the family to buy two lap counters. Annika is a three-time Futures finalist in the 200 …

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