Swimming: Some context for a fast District One Championships

A question has been bugging me this week, and I finally have a little time to tease out the answer. Every other event or so at the District One Championships last week, it seemed one coach or another was in awe of just how fast a particular field was. That’s all well and good, to be impressed in the accomplishments of an individual or two, but it requires a little bit of context, which is kind of what we as reporters are supposed to provide.

Ridley's Gab Rudy, a big part of the District One's fast girls 200 IM contingent. (Times Staff/ERIC HARTLINE)

Ridley’s Gab Rudy, a big part of the District One’s fast girls 200 IM contingent. (Times Staff/ERIC HARTLINE)

So I got to thinking about what constitutes fast. I figured a good way to determine how fast this meet was is to compare to last year’s districts meets statewide, the standard freshest in coaches’ minds and the one many swimmers may have been judging their performances against.

The result of that analysis: It wasn’t just the perception of the day at La Salle; this year’s meet was fast. Wickedly fast in some events, in fact. Just how fast compared to last year, basing on what it took to get an at-large bid to the PIAA Class AAA Championships? Well take a look:

Event 2013 Boys
16th At-large
2014 Boys
16th At-large
2013 Girls
16th At-large
2014 Girls
16th At-large
200 medley relay 1:38.19 1:37.79 1:50.30 1:49.98
200 free 1:44.31 1:44.24 1:55.57 1:55.67
200 IM 1:58.93 1:57.85 2:11.62 2:09.54
50 free 22.00 21.96 24.63 24.64
100 fly 52.76 52.18 58.96 58.76
100 free 47.73 47.44 53.34 53.61
500 free 4:44.87 4:42.56 5:11.72 5:11.94
200 free relay 1:28.17 1:28.15 1:38.96 1:38.91
100 back 53.36 53.20 59.87 58.95
100 breast 59.88 1:00.08 1:08.12 1:07.60
400 free relay 3:14.29 3:13.17 3:36.51 3:36.64

(Note: All these numbers tells us is about year-to-year change. I can’t say in absolute terms whether the
deviation is due to last year being remarkably slow or this year being historically fast; doing that would require indexing times through the years and looking up power points, and I don’t have those resources available. I think it’s enough for my purposes to say, ‘wow, the competition in an event jumped up a notch,’ and leave it at that.)

Of the 11 girls events, four were faster this year, two significantly so. (For argument’s sake, let’s consider anything under a tenth of a second difference per 100 yards essentially equal.) Only one event was markedly slower this year, and six were essentially the same. Of those slower or the same speed, all are freestyle events. Improvements in the relays were miniscule, the largest of .08 per leg on the medley. The cut for the 100 free, meanwhile, was .27 seconds slower.

The stroke events, however, were markedly quicker. The 200 IM cut jumped over two seconds, a measure of .50 seconds per 50 yards, or 50 times greater than the change in the 50 free cut. That’s in the neighborhood of the 100 back change, which went from a 59-high to a 58-high, a difference anyone will tell you is extremely significant. Even the 100 breast, which was faster by just over a half-second, constitutes a major change.

On the boys side, the only event substantially slower this year was the 100 breast, where it didn’t take a sub-minute time for an at-large. Other than though, it took faster times to make states this year essentially across the board.

The IM was again the biggest change, over a second faster this year than last. If you’re a 1:58 IMer and you don’t make states, you have reason to feel a little aggrieved. The next fastest was the 500, with states berths requiring a time 2.3 seconds faster this season. That’s the difference between splits of 56-low per 100 and 57.0.

The other really significant improvement is in the 100 free, which was almost three tenths faster this year. That qualifying time, 47.44, is phenomenally quick. The fly was the other noteworthy improvement, and unlike the girls, two of the three relays were notably faster this year, including a big jump in the 400 free relay.

In contrast to the girls, which saw precipitous drops in certain events, the boys field at states is just faster across the board. I have to think a lot of the has to do with District One, and after seeing a District 12 meet with La Salle and St. Joseph’s Prep teams that were less loaded than in recent years, I would’ve though it to be easier this year. That was definitively not the case.

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