By Reach for the Wall staff.
High school swimming is quirky in that even some grizzled veterans of summer swimming and PVS don’t quite understand how it all works. So, we’re taking a crack at explaining it, at least from the perspective of the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) system, with some examples from the Washington Metropolitan Prep School Swimming & Diving League (WMPSSDL) and Virginia High School League (VHSL) sprinkled in.
MCPS high school swimmers participate in up to 4 annual meets that are considered “Championship” meets: (i) Divisional Championships (Divisionals); (ii) the Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Swimming & Diving Championships (Metros); Region Championships (Regions); and Maryland State Championships (States). VHSL high school swimmers partipate in up to 3 annual championship meets – Conference Championships (similar to MCPS’ Divisionals), Regionals & States. Many of the area’s private schools participate in Metros, the WMPSSDL Championships, the Independent School League Championships (for girls) or the Interstate Athletic Converence Championships (for boys) as well as other regional meets.
Below are short descriptions of the MCPS championship meets:
“Divisionals” is the first of the “championship” meets. Each division (e.g., Division I, II, III), which typically has 6 or 7 teams, sends its top swimmers to compete against one another (e.g., similar to how, say Division A in the Montgomery County Swim League sends its top swimmers to its “divisional meet” each summer). Each swimmer may swim two individual events and two relays OR one individual event and three relays at Divisionals.
The team with the most combined points in the regular season divisional dual meets and the postseason divisional meet is the divisional winner. If there is a tie in points for divisional winner, head-to-head competition is the second tiebreaker. If teams are still tied, overall record in regular season divisional meets is the third tiebreaker. If there is still a tie, there will be co-champions. Divisionals is held February 4, 2017.
The teams in Division II, III, and IV with the most points will move up a division. The teams in Division I, II, and III with the least amount of points will move down a division.
“Metros” is held shortly after Divisionals (February 8 – 11 at Germantown Indoor Swim Center). While Metros is not an MCPS meet, most MCPS and private high school swimmers and divers consider it the most fun and important meet in the high school season. Eligibility requirements are slightly different – entries will only be accepted from invited high school or prep school teams in the Washington D.C. metro area that are members of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) or have been approved by the MPSSAA as non-member schools or are members of other high school athletic associations (e.g., VHSL, DCIAA). All swimming events are run as Trials & Finals, and the top 20 competitors will return for finals. Points for places 1 – 10 are awarded on the basis of the results of the Championship Final Heat. A Consolation Heat will be swum before the Championship Final Heat to determine places 11 – 20.
Qualifying for Metros is based on times. Finding the qualifying times for metros is one of the best kept secrets in high school swimming. If you have a link to the 2017 Qualifying Times, please send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Regions” and “States” are where things start getting really confusing. There are 8 regions meets in Maryland. 4A-3A North, South, East and West and 3A-2A-1A S North, South, East and West. They are broken down by geographic territory, as well as school size (as determined by the MPSSAA. In simple terms, schools are classified as follows:
4A (the largest), 3A, 2A, and 1A (the smallest).
- 4A = Top 25% based on enrollment
- 3A = Next 25% based on enrollment
- 2A = Next 25% based on enrollment
- 1A = Lowest 25% based on enrollment
There is an overlap of 3A at the regional and state level. If any RFTW readers have insight as to why this is, please let us know!
Regions only allows a maximum of 2 competitors from a given school to compete in any individual event. Their times must be documented times from a regularly scheduled swim meet in 2016-2017 (i.e., based upon a minimum of two averaged watch times, or electronic timing). Each team also will submit its one automatic relay entry with up to 8 swimmers per relay event and the documented seed-time. “No time” entries will not be accepted. Regionals are held Feb. 16-20, 2017 at pools throughout the state.
With regard to Maryland States, there are actually 2 Maryland States meets: the 4A-3A Swimming Championship and the 3A-2A-1A Swimming Championship. Unlike Regions, States pits swimmers from throughout the state of Maryland and only breaks the meet down based on school size.
Qualifying for States also is a bit tricky. The States meet is seeded from the results of Regions, based on time. In addition to the top 3 individuals and top 3 relay teams advancing from their region to the States meet, the individual competitors or relay teams who, in the finals of their Regions meet, are among the top 12 times statewide will qualify for the States meet (excluding automatic qualifiers). In the event a tie for 24th, both individuals will be included.
The 2017 States championship meets will be held February 24-25 at the University of Maryland, College Park Eppley Recreation Center.
Of these 4 MCPS championship meets, 2 are swum against only MCPS teams (Divisionals and Regions), 1 meet is the only time private and public schools race each other (Metros) and 1 is a state-wide meet (Maryland State Champs). Of these 4 meets, 3 are USA-Swimming sanctioned meets (Metros, Regions, States). These are the only 3 meets within the MCPS high school swim season where swimmer times are recognized by USA-Swimming. Metros also is sanctioned by the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations through Montgomery County Public Schools. States and Regions are governed by MPSSAA Swimming.
To be eligible for postseason championship meets, athletes must compete in a minimum of 6 out of 7 dual meets (or 5 out of 6, as applicable), unless in the judgment of the coach and the athletic director, the swimmer/diver was legitimately absent due to illness, testing or other unavoidable reasons. This gets tricky for high school kids because of the PVS championship meets in December (e.g., NCAP Invitational, RMSC Holiday Invitational), January travel meets and college visits. Most high schools are accommodating to their year round swimmers who miss for those unavoidable reasons.
Another big question that parents and swimmers alike ask is, “What do I wear at these meets?” According to the MCPS handbook, swimmers can wear either their team suit OR a suit of their choice to this meet that meet USA Swimming guidelines. Same goes for Regions. But at States, competitors must compete in school-approved team uniforms, and suits and caps must meet NFHS guidelines (e.g., team caps must be identical). Failure to comply will result in a warning for the first offense and an event disqualification for any subsequent offense.
At Reach For The Wall, may of us have high school swimmers, and often find ourselves confused. Please sound off below if you have any questions OR have any insight or details that we have missed above.
As always, high school swimming relies heavily on the weather gods being kind to them. Let us hope for a kind winter and meets being held on time. Best of luck to you and your high school swimmers!