Championship Meets :

Offered by Michigan Swimming

The Michigan Swimming LSC (Local Swim Committee) offers three levels of championship competition with seven championship meets at the conclusion of the short course season. This system creates both a competitive and progressive atmosphere.

The first tier offered is labeled as District Championships. Michigan Swimming hosts District Championship Meets spread geographically across the state. Competition for all ages is offered. Sailfish Swim Club participates in the District Championship Meet hosted by the chosen host club.

The middle tier championship meet has been named the Junior Olympics, or “JO’s”. Two JO meets, another regional meet, are hosted each year. Competition for all ages is offered. Sailfish Swim Club participates in the Junior Olympics mid-state, hosted by a nearby club.

The highest competition hosted by Michigan Swimming are the two State Championship meets, one for 12 & Under swimmers and one for 13-14 & Open age swimmers.  One for Short Course season in March and one for Long Course season in July.

Higher level competitions are offered each short course season, but are usually hosted outside the Michigan LSC and are generally for 13 & Older swimmers only. These meets include Speedo Sectional Championships, NCSA Junior Nationals, Grand Prix Series Meets and others.

Qualifying for Championship Meets Michigan Swimming uses its own set of qualifying standards for its three tiers of championship meets, labeled Q1, Q2, Q3. All championship meets do have qualifying periods (date ranges) in which times must have been achieved (typically about one year) as well as criteria for meets where qualifying times were achieved. Summer club meets and high school or middle school dual meets, for example, are not acceptable qualifying meets. There are some minimal qualifying times for District level championship meets; instead, there has been a “ceiling” placed on the meets. No swimmer may swim an event in which they have achieved a Q2 time standard at a District level competition. This policy makes the meets both competitive and very positive experience for participants.

The middle tier championship, the Junior Olympics, has minimum qualifying time standards as well as a participation “ceiling”. Athletes may swim events in which they have achieved the Q2 time standard but have not bettered the Q1 time standard.

At both the 12 & Under and 13-14 & Open State Championship meets, swimmers may only swim events in which they have achieved the Q1 qualifying time. These meets both offer individual and team scoring, unlike the District and Junior Olympic meets. These championship meets generally fall in consecutive weekends. Although initial meet registration will take place several weeks in advance, swimmers may advance from one meet to the next by achieving new qualifying times. For example, a swimmer who has a non-qualifying JO time in the 100 backstroke and swims at the District Championships where he or she achieves a Q2 qualifying time may enter the 100 backstroke at the Junior Olympics the following weekend.

Choosing a Championship Meet & Events : Our coaches expect FISH athletes to swim at the highest level possible. For many FISH athletes, this selection will be a simple and straight-forward process. For those with multiple options or personal/family conflicts, please discuss your entries with your coaches.

Common circumstances that your coaches can help with include: • Event qualification split between two meets (four Q2 times and 3 Q1 times) • Too many events to choose from or event selection. • Birthday/Age-Up during the championship season.

Higher Level End of Season Meets FISH athletes routinely attend higher level meets outside of state of Michigan. These meets commonly carry their own qualification times and participation rules. Nearly all higher level meets are “open” age group meets, which means qualifiers of all ages compete against each other. Athletes will begin to qualify for these meets around the age of 12 (girls) and 14 (boys), however, the vast majority of the athletes in these meets will be 16 and older. Common meets to see on the FISH schedule include Speedo Sectional Championships, Futures, Junior Nationals, Nationals and Grand Prix events.

What are Zones and Sectionals?

USA Swimming, the governing body for the sport of swimming in the United States, divides the country into 59 regional governing bodies called Local Swimming Committees (LSCs), and each LSC holds a championship “invitational” meet twice a year (at the end of winter and then again at the end of summer) for its age group (younger) and senior (older) swimmers.  Michigan Swimming, the LSC that governs the entire state of Michigan, holds its age group championship meet (i.e., JOs) and its senior championship meets (i.e., Junior and Senior Champs) for the winter, short-course (25 yard) season.  Many swimmers at these meets qualified for even faster meets, including Zones and Sectionals.

To understand Zones and Sectionals, know that USA Swimming divides the 59 LSCs into four zones: Eastern, Central, Southern and Western.  (It’s sort of like the NHL, where all of the hockey teams are divided into four separate divisions).  Like each LSC, each zone holds championship invitational meets at the end of the winter and summer seasons for select age group and senior swimmers for LSCs within that zone.  “Zones” are the zonal championship meets for age group swimmers, and “Sectionals” are the zonal championship meets for senior swimmers.  At Zones, each LSC compiles a team of its fastest age group swimmers to compete against other LSCs in the same zone, and these swimmers compete under the name of their LSC (not their clubs).  At Sectionals, however, swimmers generally compete under their own club’s name.

Although each zone generally holds only one Zones meet for age group swimmers at the end of each winter and summer season, each zone may host several Sectionals meets throughout the zone region at the end of each season in order to control the size of these meets or to offer swimmers the option of racing in short or long course pools.  

Central Winter Zones often are considered the “prestigious Zones” because it is sometimes limited only to each LSC’s top 2-3 swimmers in each event. Central Summer Zones, in contrast, often are considered the “fun Zones” because anyone with a qualifying time can go and they’re in early August.  But those qualifying times are still tough to achieve – e.g., the qualifying times for the Central Summer Zones are much faster than the cuts for, say JOs.  Michigan swimmers normally do very well at both Zones meets as it is very competitive.  The kids have a great time given that it is often their first travel meet without their parents and because they are competing for Michigan Swimming (instead of their clubs), which helps establish new friendships.

It is worth noting that swimmers who have competed at a USA Swimming “national” meet (e.g., National Championships, Spring Championships, U.S. Open, Junior Championships or Trials Class) cannot swim at Zones. Neither can any swimmer who is at least 13 years old who has achieved a qualifying time to swim at any such meet. We’ll talk about these national meets in subsequent posts.

At Sectionals, the competition varies greatly.  Since these meets generally have no limits on age or speed, 18 and unders who have only one cut may find themselves racing against Olympians and national champions of college age or older who are trying to qualify for some other meet.  This is especially the case in this Olympic year when swimmers are competing in as many meets as possible in order to qualify for Olympic Trials.

Sectionals were created when USA Swimming voted to eliminate Junior National Championships in 2000 and to replace them with lots of Sectionals meets in order to allow more swimmers to participate and allow more clubs to compete together as a team.  This decision, however, left many club coaches feeling that they had lost a major part of their system for developing elite 18 & under swimmers.

For many years, making Zones was the focus of many of the fastest swimmers in Michigan.  Increasingly, however, some clubs are sending their swimmers to meets outside of the Central Zone in order to give them the opportunity to swim more events and to experience competing on a “national” level (vs. the zone-level exposure that Zones provide).  For clubs, these national age group meets include the NCSA Age Group Championships in Orlando, Florida (March 22-24) and the NASA Showcase Classic in Clearwater, Florida (March 30 – April 2).  It will be interesting to see if this trend towards “going national” grows and what impact (if any) it will have on Zones.

Where are you / your swimmers heading in the coming weeks, and what was the deciding factor?  Are swimmers choosing to swim at Zones and Sectionals?  Or, are they going to other meets, such as those that NCSA or NASA that are sponsored in Florida?  Is location a factor?  Friends?  Or the swag?