Anyone who swims year-round knows that there are many different types of swim meets. There are national meets, local, championship, open, invitationals, the list could go on and on and on. It can be a little disorienting about all these different meets and what can be expected at each. When I first started swimming, my parents had no idea what meets and why they were all different. To help with the confusion, I’ll be listing all the different types of meets that I can think of and explain what can be expected. These will roughly be in order of importance.
- International: These meets will include swimmers from other countries outside of the US. Typically, only the most elite swimmers will swim t meets like this and the teams are often sponsored by the country. These meets will either have qualifying times or base it off of national rank. Almost everyone, if not everyone, will be wearing tech suits. Examples include the Olympics, Pan Pacific Swimming Championships (Pan Pacs), and Junior Olympics.
- National: USA Swimming has different rankings of their national meets, ranging from one to five star. The more stars there are, the faster the meet is. Often, there will be multiple sites of each meet, divided by region. These meets will typically have qualifying times. Many of the swimmers will be wearing tech suits. A lot of club and college teams will taper for these kind of meets. Examples include Nationals, Junior Nationals, Sectionals, and Senior Zones.
- Championship meets: These typically happen twice a year. In club swimming, there will be a mid-season championship meet in December and an end-of-season meet in March/April. What meet is considered the championship meet depends on the team, how fast the swimmer is, and how old the swimmer is. For example, in PVS, 14 & unders have JOs for their championship meet while 15 & overs have Junior or Senior Champs as their championship meet, and which one depends on the speed of the swimmers. Many teams will go to a national meet and that will be their end-of-season meet instead of the meets listed above, although this is contingent on the swimmer qualifying. You will see many swimmers wearing tech suits at these meets but not all will have tapered at every meet as while the meet may be classified as a championship meet, it may not be important enough to the swimmer for them to taper for that specific meet.
- States (High School): States is a big deal, even to year-round swimmers. It allows them to compete against all the best swimmers in their state in one place. It’s not as important as championship meets but it’s still something coaches take into account for training. There are non-year-round swimmers that make it but mostly only year-round swimmers make finals. Expect to see tech suits here, although swimmers won’t be tapered and the tech suit will likely not be new.
- Invitationals: These meets vary wildly as invitationals will typically mean only invited teams are allowed. Some invitationals are also championship meets (such as NCAP Invitational) while others are just regular meets (such as Harvest Moon Invitational). Whether swimmers are wearing tech suits or not here depends on the swimmer and whether or not it’s a championship meet as well.
- Regionals (High School): This meet is less important than States. Year-round swimmers hardly care for it and while they will wear a tech suit, it will most likely be old and they won’t be tapered for it.
- Conference (High School): Really nothing to year-round swimmers. It’s like another high school meet except longer and with all the teams from the county in one place. Many will wear tech suits but they won’t make their season around the meet.
- Open meets: These meets are open to anyone who is a USA Swimming member and can provide some sort of time. Typically, there is no age limit to these meets and as long as you have proof you are a USA Swimming meter, you can enter in any event. You won’t see a lot of tech suits at these meets unless the swimmer is trying to go for a time and it’s one of their last chances.
- Distance Meets: These meets are pretty self explanatory. They only include distance events. Typically there will be one event per day, with heats alternating between gender. You might see tech suits being worn during the faster heats. The meets are often open so anyone can enter.
- High School Meets: This is just one team against another and tech suits will not be worn here. These happen every week and the goal is to get more points Thant the other team. Only a few events are swum at these meets: all of the 100s; the 50, 200, and 500 free; and 200 IM. These meets will be very quick, typically under two hours.
- Mini Meets: These meets will be for 8 and unders only. There will typically only be 25s and 50s being raced, although the 100 free or 100 IM might also be going on. There won’t be any tech suits at this meet.
Hopefully this helps with the confusion of meets and understanding the expectations of each. This list does not include all meets that exist but include the most common ones.