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Swimming motivational times explained

Time Standards


Time Standards

There are many beautiful things about the sport of swimming. One of them is the objective nature of the results.  Once you touch the wall, there it is in black and white: the time it took you to cover the distance of the race!

GILLS Swimming is a member club of the National Governing Body, USA Swimming. USA Swimming publishes motivational times by event and by age group to encourage swimmers to step their swimming up to the next level. These time standards guide a swimmer from just starting out in his/her age group to reaching his/her highest potential.  The standards change every 4 years based on how many swimmers in that age group achieve the standards. The standards usually get faster every update.  Ideally our swimmers use these times to help set short and long term personal goals and track their progress.  What we hope they all learn is that the more they practice and work hard, the closer they get to their goals.

Time standards are broken down into age group and level. Age groups are divided into 10&U, 11/12, 13/14, 15/16, and 17/18 year old categories. Eight and under swimmers do not have standards as this is an introductory age and the focus is on teaching strokes and having fun.   Each category has a B, BB, A, AA, AAA, and AAAA level.  Swimmers can begin at a B level and work their way up each level. 

Most meets are divided into categories based on age and level.  This allows for more fair competition.  Championship meets use time standards to help divide competition in a fair and stepwise progression.  A new swimmer with B times will race against others in the same age/level, while an advanced, experienced competitor may swim a different meet requiring AA standards within their specific age group.

When swimmers move up an age group bracket, the times they achieved to date still count toward a standard.  Standards for older age brackets get more challenging as swimmers age up a level. These more challenging standards help encourage swimmers to move into the next level of swimming.

Every year the Illinois Swimming Age Group Championships are held in March (short course – 25yd) and July (long course – 50m).  These are the state championship meets for our 13/14, 11/12, and 10 and under athletes that qualify. To qualify for these meets, the time standards are typically somewhere between an “A” and a “AA” time.  Also in March (short course) and July (long course) there are the Illinois Swimming Senior Championships that has one set of qualifying times with no age grouping.  These are the state championship meets for our high school age athletes (and above) that qualify. 

Beyond Age Group Championships and Senior Championships, there are national level competitions with their own time standards: