Age Group Swimming
One of the benefits of your USA Swimming membership is the privilege of being able to compete in swim meets across the country. When you’re first starting out, though, you will probably participate in competitions a little closer to home.
There are many different kinds of meets you can participate in, but most age groupers will probably be competing in local League (GVSL) meets or Invitationals. These meets are usually held over the weekend and hosted by a nearby club – maybe even your own.
With so many swimmers competing, some will be very fast, and some will be beginners like you. Don’t be nervous. These meets are set up so that you are racing against kids your own age and pretty close to the same ability.
At most meets, you’ll have the opportunity to win awards like ribbons or medals. But if you don’t win right away, don’t give up.
The Bigger Meets: League and LSC Championships
As you get better, you might get good enough to compete at bigger meets with lots of other fast swimmers.
All these bigger meets have time standards or “cuts.” That means you will have to swim a certain time in your event before you will be allowed to compete in these meets. The bigger and more important the meet, the faster you will have to swim. (See GVSL and Niagara Standards pages for details.)
Two of the first big meets you might compete in is your GVSL League Championships and Niagara Championships, your Local Swimming Committee (LSC) age group championships. At these meets, you will still be competing against swimmers in your own age group, but they will be the best in your League or LSC or even geographic area. It’s easy to get nervous, but keep in mind, if you weren’t fast enough, you wouldn’t be able to compete at this level.
Even Bigger Meets: Zone Championships – All Star
Even faster than your LSC age group championships are the Zone Championships. USA Swimming divides the country into four Zones – Eastern, Western Central and Southern. We are part of Eastern Zone that holds two Zone Championships each year, Short Course in March and Long Course in the summer.
At the Zone Meet, each state or LSC fields a team of its top age group swimmers to compete against the other states or LSCs within that Zone. For example, in the Eastern Zone, Niagara Swimming will compete against teams from New Jersey, Connecticut Swimming. Instead of competing for your club, you are representing your state or LSC and might find yourself on a relay with other top swimmers from your LSC. Zone meets are the top age group meets you can compete in around the country.
Each club has its own definition of what a senior swimmer is, but generally, senior swimming requires more commitment and dedication to the sport. This step up usually occurs around the time a swimmer is 13 or 14, but may come earlier or later, depending on the club and the individual swimmer.
At this point, a swimmer has pretty much decided to make swimming his sole athletic focus. Practices and competitions become a little more serious, and if a swimmer is fast enough, a whole new level of competitive opportunities arise, including the Speedo Champions Series, USA Swimming Grand Prix meets, the Speedo Junior National Championships, and the ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships.
Many senor level athletes compete for their High School as well.
Original source - http://www.usaswimming.org