By Reach for the Wall Staff Writers.
You went to the Olympics?
Ask any swimmer what the best part of Junior Olympics (JOs) is, and they inevitably will tell you that it’s getting to skip school on Friday. And the T-shirts, which they wear (dirty) to school on Monday to show off to all their friends. They spend most of Monday yawning and answering their favorite questions – “Did you win?” and “Are you going to the Olympics?” Kids don’t really understand JOs. That’s ok, neither do most adults, including the ones that were at JOs.
To explain JOs, a little background helps. USA Swimming, the governing body for the sport of swimming in the U.S., divides the country into 59 regional governing bodies called Local Swimming Committee (LSCs). Each LSC governs competitive swimming in its respective area and is required to hold a championship “invitational” meet twice a year (at the end of winter and summer) for both age group (younger) and senior (older) swimmers. That is, at the end of the winter season, each LSC holds an age group championship meet and a senior championship meet, and at the end of the summer season, holds another age group championship meet and senior championship meet. The winter season, which typically runs October-March, is swum in a short course (25 yard) pool, and the summer season, which typically runs April-July, is swum in a long course (50 meter) pool. LSCs call the age group championship meets by different names (e.g., “JOs”, “Age Group Champs”, “States”, etc.).
Most of these championship meets have a time standard (cut). Only swimmers that swim faster than that “cut” are invited to swim in the meet. How these times are set vary; some are the national standards set by USA Swimming (i.e., A, AA, AAA) and others are times that change year to year – most hover around the AA cuts. Almost all of these championship meets have trials and finals, but this arrangement also can vary by LSC.
This past weekend, Potomac Valley Swimming (PVS), the LSC that governs the Washington D.C. metro area, hosted JOs at the University of Maryland as its age group championship meet for the winter, short-course season. (PVS held its senior championship meet a week before JOs this year, but in other years, the senior championship meet may occur a week after JOs.) The PVS JOs do not use National Time Standards; instead, they set their own times and adjust them incrementally each year. JOs is a four day meet that includes trials and finals for age groups 10 & under, 11-12 and 13-14. The kids compete in individual events and relays. They also compete as a team and the meet is scored, but to keep things fair, PVS presents team awards to small, medium and large sized teams.
For the last piece of the JOs puzzle, does this mean the next step is the Olympics? No. That’s not entirely true though. The Olympics are what dreams are made of. PVS swimmers will go to bed with dreams of flip turns and hopes of being a future Olympian. And they will wake up with homework that still needs to be done and a note to the school for the absence. Which brings up an interesting question. Do you tell your kids’ school where they are or skirt the issue (appointment). Is it an excused absence? Please comment below, we would love to know.
Stay tuned, we plan to talk about the format of all meets, from the Mini’s all the way up to the Olympics.