Time Standards and Meets
Different meets use different qualifying times (ie, "Q" times). Many meets have no qualifying time standard and anyone can enter. Some meets have "dequalifying" times--meaning if you have too fast of a time in a particular event, you can't enter that event. Some meets require you to hit a particular standard for a particular event in order to enter that event (i.e. you need a 11-12 BB time in the 100 FR to enter that event). The rules for each meet are described in the meet entry information--please read that carefully.
Examples of meets with qualifying times:
- In January there is a Zone 3 Winter Championship Meet that uses custom time standards for each event.
- Each Spring (Short Course) and Summer (Long Course) there are Junior Olympic Championship meets that requires AA times for each event and Far Westerns Championship meets that requires AAA times for each event.
USA Swimming Time Standards
USA Swimming has a set of time standards that uses letter references (B, BB, A, AA, AAA, AAAA). Standards can be found here US Swimming Motivational Times
USA Swimming publishes these sets of time standards for various reasons. One of the reasons behind standards is their usefulness for setting goals. They are also used to control the size of swim meets, as each higher or faster level in the standards has fewer swimmers - as the standards get faster, fewer swimmers achieve them. Almost every swimming federation in the world uses some form of stepped standards within their system.
Standards can also be used to offer swimmers a general idea how they match up with other swimmers in their age group and between age-groups, but raw times work better within age-groups. In a general sense they can be used to compare swimmers in different age-groups with each other, but just because a swimmer has "AAA" times as a 9-10 year old does not mean that same swimmer will get "AAA" times as a 13-14 year old. There are several reasons for this, including differing maturation rates, changing interests, and even injuries.
Bottom line - Time standards are great for goal setting and somewhat useful for comparing swimmers in different age-groups, but not necessarily over the "life" of that athlete.
Pacific Swimming Website has more information about time standards and qualifying times.
Go to the Pacific Time Standards Tab.