Swim Meets 101

The Tiered Swim Meet System Explained

Recreational / Developmental Meets (Home & Away) - These meets are designed to give newer swimmers an opportunity to try new skills in a forgiving and comfortable environment. The events are usually a few hours in length max. Ribbons may or may not be awarded, depending on the event. These are fun, fast and family-friendly events that are open to all swimmers, but targets our Manta Rays, Sharks and age groupers through AG3


Multi-Team Invitationals / Open Competitions (one session - multiple sessions/days) - These events are traditional multi-session, multi-day affairs. There may be one session per day (timed finals) or there may be a finals session at night which brings back the top qualifiers from the morning or day before’s swims. These meets can be Amatuer Athletic Union (AAU) or United States Swimming (USAS) sanctioned. All participants must be registered to the organizing body to be eligible to compete (insurance)

Florida Swimming “B” Championships  (open to qualified USAS registered swimmers) - This is the first rung of the championship ladder. Swimmers who have achieved a “B” time standard for their age and sex are able to compete in this meet. This meet was used for newer swimmers in the past. In more recent years, it has become more popular for higher level swimmers to enter this meet as a qualifier for higher level ones later in the season.

Florida Swimming 14 & Under Age Group Championships (FLAGS) - The FLAGS meet is the second rung of the championship ladder. It is designed for the fastest 14 and under swimmers in the Florida Swimming Local Swim Committee (LSC). Swimmers must be USAS registered and must have achieved one of the time standards during the qualifying period.

Florida Swimming Senior Championships - This meet is open to all USAS registered swimmers who have achieved the qualifying time standards within the qualifying period. Like the Florida swimming “B” Championships, this meet originally was put on to offer swimmers who have not yet achieved a Junior National or USAS Futures time standard with a championship meet opportunity. It, too, has become another meet for higher level swimmers to come and get cuts, or fine tune, for meets later in the season.

AAU Summer Junior Olympics - This team event is open to all qualified AAU registered swimmers. The time standards for most events is “BB” or better; which means more swimmers will qualify than for FLAGS or Senior Champs. This meet has events for swimmers who are 8 and under (no qualifying time standards!) through to 18 year olds. There are finals for swimmers 11 and older. This is a team event which is scored. The format and number of swimmers usually means that more athletes will get a shot at second swims (finals). That makes this a very attractive team ending summer event. The fact that it is held in some great cities each year makes it even more attractive. We encourage all of our swimmers to attend this event (swimmers who have qualified for USAS Juniors or above should target those meets instead)

USA Swimming Sectionals - The USAS Sectionals meet is the first rung of the national meet ladder. The time standards are approximate between the teenage National Age Group “AA” and “AAA” cuts. There are maximum times as well; where if you achieve that time, you must swim at a higher level meet. This is a good meet to attend to get a feel for what the next phase of a swimmer’s career will take them. Many swimmers use this meet to qualify for higher level events as well since it usually occurs mid to late season.

USA Swimming Futures - The USAS Futures meet was designed to offer an alternative to the very exclusive NCSA Junior National Meet (entry to that meet is by invite a founding member of NCSA, we have an open invite). The qualifying time standards are challenging, but anyone with enough passion and dedication can make at least one. The qualifying times are somewhere between teenage NAG  “AAA” and “AAAA” times.

NCSA 14 & Under Nationals - This is a major 14 & under national competition. It is open to all 14 & under swimmers who have achieved the time standard(s). These times are between the NAG  “AA” and “AAA” times for each sex and age. There are prelims and finals. Most non-COVID years, they add an extra heat for swimmers who are at the bottom of their age group. This helps keep swimmers from getting discouraged during their “down” or “off” year. We target this meet instead of FLAGS each spring (for most swimmers) as it is a national level meet with many opportunities for second swims. While thh FLAGS meet is also fast and fun, targeting this meet keeps our swimmers and families thinking bigger than just the state. That helps as they progress in the sport.

NCSA 18 & U  Junior Nationals - This is the fastest 18 & under meet in the country. The NCSA meet has five (5) heats for finals which gives swimmers more opportunity for a second swim than at USA Juniors or even Futures. This is a fun, team event that is a target for our swimmers every spring. This meet has grown very large. As such, space is limited. As with the 14 & Under meet, I am a founder of the organization so we have an open invite each year.

USA Swimming Winter Junior Nationals* - This is the focus competition in the fall for our 18 & Unders (outside of HS States). The time standards are faster than NCSAs or Futures. This eet is great to try to get another swim post HS season in a specific event or even events a swimmer was not able to enter at high school states.

USA Swimming Summer Junior Nationals* - The USAS Summer Juniors meet is a very high level competition for 18 & under swimmers. Many swimmers who achieve the times standards needed to participate are also targeted by top universities for scholarships. The competition level at this meet is extremely high. Making it to this level is an indication that swimming at an elite international level is possible long term.

USA Swimming Nationals / US Open / Olympic Trials* - These meet(s) can change names, but also serve as the ultimate meet for the national governing body (USA Swimming). National teams are usually selected at these meets (Olympics, Pan Pacs, WUGs, Worlds, Junior Worlds, etc). When you have made it to this level, you are in extremely rare company. These are the highest level national meets offered year in and year out.

*All of these meets often serve as selection meets for Junior & Senior National Teams such as Pan Pacs, WUGS, Junior Worlds, etc.