By Reach for the Wall Staff Writers.
ORLANDO – The YMCA pool in Orlando, Florida has been busy over the last two weeks. First, it hosted the NCSA Junior National Championships (March 15-19) (NCSA Day 1, NCSA Day 2 and NCSA wrap up), and this week it hosted the NCSA Age Group Championships (March 22-25). Many people have been asking what the Age Group Champs meet entailed, and since Reach For the Wall was in attendance at this meet, we thought we’d do a post-meet synopsis. Look for a follow up to this with meet results.
PVS age group swimmers generally only go to one or two travel meets a year. These travel meets, however, often are close to home (Virginia, Delaware and even parts of Maryland that aren’t within PVS) and usually are not championship meets. We are very lucky to have so much talent in our backyard and our swimmers have an opportunity to compete at a high level within the PVS area at most meets. The drawback to this is that we tend to see the same swimmers at PVS, high school and summer league swim meets, so the meets, along with who is swimming at them, becomes quite predictable.
This year, five PVS teams made the journey to Orlando for the NCSA Age Group Champs: Shark Tank Racing, Snow, Machine, NCAP and RMSC. It’s the first year of this particular meet, and it was created as an opportunity for younger swimmers to acclimate to larger meets, such as the NCSA Junior Nationals meet hosted in the same pool the week prior. When they do qualify for the next level, the hope is that they will be ready.
The meet format is a little different than what we are accustomed to at PVS meets. During the first few days of the meet, parents, swimmers and coaches were referencing the meet announcement often for clarification on various meet procedures.
The qualifying times for this meet were unique in that swimmers at the bottom of their age group (9, 11 and 13) needed one AA cut and the swimmers at the top of their age group (10, 12 and 14) were required to have one AAA time. Swimmers were awarded five bonus swims with a maximum of ten total swims possible. This made the meet more appealing than Zones to a lot of swimmers – as there were potentially many more opportunities to race.
The 11-12 and 13-14 swimmers had prelims in the morning and three final heats in the evening. The A final was comprised of the 8 fastest swimmers. The B-1 final included the next 8 fastest kids at the top of the age group (12 and 14). The B-2 final contained the next fastest 8 at the bottom of their age group (11 and 13). This gave everyone a pretty fair shot at making finals. The 9-10s did not have finals. These sessions were smaller – which seemed to deter many of the teams from bringing their younger swimmers. The 24 finalists all made it to the podium, the top 8 received medals and the remainder were given ribbons.
The meet had high quality live streaming which enabled family and friends to see their loved ones swim from afar. The announcers were audible from the stands. The starter was efficent and the meet officiating seemed fair.
Many of the parents were thrilled to receive their first bag tag. The excitement was short lived when they realized that the bag tag and free heat sheets came with a $60 price tag. In talking to other non-PVS parents, it was quickly discovered that this is the norm in most areas for any meet. Paying for meet entry at PVS meets is virtually unheard of. It’s the norm at meets such as Zones but it’s hard to imagine paying every time. No one seemed to mind paying, but it makes you appreciate the free meets back home.
There are two hotels that share a parking lot with the pool. The convenience factor was high – the kids were able to walk to warm ups and come back to the room to change into competition suits. The area also offers fantastic dining options and it was a safe area and the kids could have some freedom from their parents.
The pool itself was huge and had ample deck space for the kids. The air quality was good and the starting blocks and electronic scoreboard were fantastic. The pool itself looks like it could use some scrubbing and the spectator area is cramped. No one seemed to care.
On Thursday evening and again Friday mid-afternoon, the meet was delayed due to thunder and lightening. This was unexpected at an indoor pool. Some of the swimmers from California experienced their first thunderstorm. The 400 IM final heat had to swim Friday morning. Their teammates made it special by providing tons of cheering.
The overall consensus was that this was a fantastic meet. The kids had a great time not just swimming but also bonding with their teammates. The competition was solid. PVS swimmers were well represented in finals and there were a lot of personal bests – a nice accomplishment given the fact that JOs were less than two weeks ago. The parents from the other teams were all very friendly and it was nice having dialogue about swimming in different parts of the country. And by the way, the meet is in sunny Orlando!
It would come as no surprise if this meet were to become much larger in the coming years. In its freshman year they hit a home run with this meet. It’s well run, great competition, ideal location, a great stepping stone to the NCSA meet and above all the kids made memories that will last a lifetime. As did the parents. As people were departing the pool last night there was a sense of comradery among the parents, kids and coaches and the words “next year” seemed to be the prevailing theme.
We would love to hear from parents and swimmer- send us photos or write ups in meets you attended! As most PVS swimmers are on spring break please enjoy the down time. Those with meets – best of luck!!