Understanding League & State

by David Lowland

Get Ready for the Championship Meets

The League and State championship meets are run a bit differently than the regular season dual meets, and the excitement level among the swimmers and the fans is noticeably higher. They are loud and exciting, and for the athletes the team spirit typically runs high. Swimmers will have shaved and tapered (reduced their training) and will typically wear tech-suits (fast-suits, kneeskins). Divers have to compete across 11-dives and 3 days of competition. It can be an emotional time.

For League and State, each team may enter a maximum of 4 participants in each individual event. There are no qualifying standards for the League meet; to swim or dive at the State meet, you must meet the qualifying standards. There are no exhibition swimmers or divers. All entered participants are eligible to score points.

Athletes may participate in a maximum of 4 events: either 2 individual and 2 relays, or 3 relays and 1 individual event. Diving is considered an individual event. Relays are critical because they count for double the points of individual events.

Championship meets typically take place over two or more days. Unlike dual-meets which are run as “timed-finals,” the championship meets have separate preliminary and championship finals. Only the top 16 in prelims participate in the championship finals.


For diving, the championship meets are 11-dive meets. Cuts are made after each round.

  • Prelims: Dives 1-5. Field cut to top 20.
  • Semi-Finals : Dives 6-8. Field cut to top 16.
  • Finals : Dives 9-11. Top 16 compete for final placing.

The Dive Finals typically take place as the first event, just before the Swim Finals competition begins. The Dive Finals are the final 3-dives of the competition with final overall placing determined by the combined score of your 11-dives. Unlike swimming, there’s no A & B groupings for the finals. The top 16 divers compete for position based on their overall (cumulative) scores, completing their final three dives in the finals.

Swimming Prelims – Friday

For swimming, the meets have two parts: Prelims and Finals. Everyone entered participates in prelims on Friday. How you perform in prelims determines whether or not you get to swim in the finals on Saturday, and if so, which race you’ll compete in: the “A” Championship Finals (places 1-8) or the “B” Consolation Finals (places 9-16).

With each team able to enter up to 4 swimmers, the Prelims can be quite large with many heats of all events, especially at League. In order to create a more competitive environment, championship meets like League and State use a different seeding method to determine who is in which heat during prelims.

Heat Seeding

At dual- and tri-meets during the season Standard (regular) Seeding is used. Your entry/seed time determines your heat and lane placement and the last heat of the event is made up of the fastest swimmers entered in the event. The time you swim in your heat, determines your overall place in the event (timed final).

At League and State, you’ll probably notice something a little strange in the heat sheets. At meets with separate Prelims and Finals, the final (fastest) three heats of each prelims event are seeded using Championship (circle) Seeding. Earlier prelims heats are seeded using Standard Seeding. With Championship Seeding, rather than having all the fastest swimmers in the final heat, they are distributed through the last three heats, giving the top 24 entrants more competitive balance in their events.

Advancing to Finals – Saturday

Doing well in prelims is critical because swimmers can’t move between finalist groups.

At the conclusion of prelims, based on their prelims competition time, swimmers will be seeded for the finals into the “A” Championship Finals (places 1-8), and “B” Consolation Finals (places 9-16). At League, in recent years, there has also been a “C” Exhibition final (places 17-24) to provide swimmers one last chance to qualify for state, though that may not continue.

It’s exciting to see athletes seeded 9th or 10th competing hard trying to move up to get into the top 8 to be in the A finals on Saturday, or those seeded 17th or 18th trying to move up into the top 16 to swim in the B finals. As they say, “the meet is won on Friday”. It’s really exciting when a swimmer or team moves up from a lower seed. Conversely, failing to hold a position in the top 8 for a highly seeded athlete or relay can be costly for a pre-meet favorite. League and State Championships have turned on dramatic prelims performances like this.

Swimming Finals – Saturday

The top 16 places (the A & B Finals) all score points towards the overall team score. The C Final at League is exhibition only and does not score points, but the times are valid and can be used to qualify for state.

  1. The “A” Championship finalists compete for places 1-8 in the meet. A swimmer in the A Final can finish no lower than 8th. After each event, they will have a podium ceremony to award medals for the top 8 finishers in the event. The coach for the team of the winning swimmer hands out the medals to the podium finishers. It’s a good photo opp and nice recognition at the meet for the top 8 finishers.
  2. The “B” Consolation finalists compete for places 9-16 in the meet. They can score no higher than 9th place, even if their times are faster than “A” Championship finishers on Saturday. Once in the Consolation Finals, there’s no moving up.
  3. The “C” Exhibition finalists compete for places 17-24 at League, but do not score points.

At the conclusion of the meet they will announce the team scores and hold a podium ceremony to award trophies to the top three teams and individual medals for team members.


League and State (8-lane pool)

  • individual: A final) 20-17-16-15-14-13-12-11     B final) 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1
  • relays: A final) 40-34-32-30-28-26-24-22     B final) 18-14-12-10-8-6-4-2