We have received several email questions about how national qualifying times (NQTs) are determined for national championship meets. Jeff Roddin, Potomac Valley registrar and member of the Championship Committee, explains the process:
National qualifying times for Spring Nationals (short course yards) are based on a formula using the average 10th place times from the previous three years of USMS Top 10 times.
Qualifying times for Summer Nationals (long course meters) are based on a formula using the average 5th place times from the previous three years of USMS Top 10s. The reason behind this is that LCM is not as popular as SCY and some LCM age group/event combinations don't even have 10 swimmers around the country who swim that event.
The reason we take a rolling three year average is to smooth out any “bumps” that may occur if one year is unusually slow or fast.
Each year the Championship Committee sets the percentage delta from that three-year average. Typically the times are 10 percent slower than the 10th place average for SCY, and 15 percent slower than the 5th place average for LCM. Often, the times are made slower for the sprint events (50s and 100s) while keeping all other events at the standard.
The purpose for the qualifying times is not to make our championship meets exclusive. The intention is to cut down on the number of entries due to facility capacity and the timeline of each day. For example, several heats of the 50 free could be added without affecting the timeline much, but the addition of a single 1650 heat could add half an hour or more.
Times are not necessarily intended to be a motivating factor either, but they can serve that purpose. A caveat to using them as motivation though is that the times change from year to year, depending on who hosts the meet. For example, if a LCM host can run two pools simultaneously, instead of the usual one course, then the times would likely be slower so more people could attend.
In order to not be exclusive, and to serve the intent of the timeline, any swimmer can swim up to three events in a national championship meet without meeting the NQTs. For example, if a swimmer meets just one qualifying time, then he or she may swim up to four events. Lastly, for Summer Nationals 2010 in Puerto Rico, the Championship Committee has suspended the traditional three-event limit in favor of swimmers being eligible to enter up to 4 events without meeting the NQTs.