Levels of Competitive Swimming

 ​​Types and Levels of Swimming Competition

Developmental and Invitational Meets

These meets may or may not have qualifying standards and comprise the majority of the meets we attend.  Depending on the meet, awards may be given depending on finish place. If the meet has qualifying standards, your swimmer must have times within those listed in the meet notice.  Some meets may be “faster than” meets and some will be “slower than”.

LSC Championships

Each Local Swimming Committee (LSC) is mandated to have a season ending championships twice a year for both Age Group (younger) and Senior (no age requirement) swimmers. Most LSC's, like Maryland, split these up into two separate meets. The meet is open only to club teams within the LSC. Entry time standards are applied so that only the top level swimmer of the LSC can attend, and the standards are reviewed each year to provide fair competition. The meets are conducted in a prelim/final format.  Maryland Swimming offers three LSC Championship meets a year, Senior Championships (open to anyone who meets the qualifying times) and Age Group Championships (14&U swimmers who meet the qualifying times) in early Spring, and Long Course Championships (open to anyone who meets the qualifying times) in late Summer.


Zone Championship, ISCA Summer International Championship, and Speedo Championship Series (Sectionals)

There are four zones and 59 LSCs in the country. While the LSC championship is a high level meet, the Zone, ISCA, and Sectional Championships are even higher. These meets are also of the invitational format, but the entry time standards are even higher so that only the fastest swimmers of Zones qualify. The Zone, ISCA, and Sectional meets are of the same competition level, but serve different purposes. Zone meets are for age group swimmers while ISCA and Sectional meets are for more Senior swimmers. 


Deaf World Championships

We have a high performing hearing impaired swimmer who has been selected for international competitions in the deaf community.



The summer Futures Championship provides a step between Sectionals and Junior Nationals and another chance to improve the athlete’s times with tougher competition and faster qualifying times.  Futures meets are open-age and not limited to 18&U.


Junior Nationals

There are several different types of Junior National meets, each with their own set of qualifying times and standards.  Most of these swim prelims in short course yards and finals in long course meters (Olympic Trial times must be swum in long course). The qualifying times for USA Swimming’s Summer Junior Nationals are the fastest, followed by USA Swimming’s Winter Junior Championships, NCSA’s and then NASA Junior Nationals.  All of these meets are really fast and only a small percentage of swimmers ever qualify, so they all are pretty prestigious.


National Championship/US Open

There is only one National Championship meet at the conclusion of each season (long course and short course) across the country. The National Championships are also of the invitational meet format and offer extremely high level competition. Only a very small percentage of people who ever swim will make it to this high a level of competition. This meet is generally used to determine the US National Team for various international level meets each year, but is not used to determine the US Olympic Team. Currently, there are 2 National Championships each year, they are known as the Winter Nationals (short course) and The US Open (long course).


Olympic Trials

The Olympic Trials are held once every four years and represent the highest level of USA Swimming competition.  You must be a United States citizen to participate in this meet.