Swim & Dive 101: The Basics

About High School Swim & Dive

If you are new to high school swimming and diving, you may find it a bit confusing…but HANG IN THERE!  It’s awesome!!

High school swim and dive is one combined, competitive team sport, structured somwhat like the collegiate sport. Thus, both the swimmers and divers compete against the same schools in the same meets. Depending on type of meet and where it is being held, diving is conducted either before or during the swimming competition. Swim and dive points are added together for each team to determine the meet scores

Here is an overview of what to expect and how to enjoy the high school season:

Dual Meets (Swimming)

The high school season consists of a number of dual meets, the majority against opponents in the Mississippi 8 Conference.  Don’t look for meet programs that list each swimmer competing by event since teams do not turn in a lineup until shortly before the meet.  The swimmers’ events can be changed by either team virtually up to the minute they compete, depending on the strategy of the coaches and the progression of the meet.  All high school dual meets have 11 swimming events – eight individual events and three relay events. For dual meets, each team enters three swimmers in each individual event and three relay teams in each relay event (in an 8 lane pool a fourth competitor for each team may be entered as exhibition).  Swimmers may enter a maximum of four events, no more than two of which can be individual events. Swimmers are selected by the coach for each event or relay based on their times and the coach’s goals for that meet. By rule, the visiting team gets to select their choice of odd or even lanes.  Dependent on the meet, swimmers may have the opportunity to swim “off events” to mix things up and have some fun. For these more relaxed meets, relay teams may be scrambled as well.

A typical dual meet has three relay swim-events, eight individual swim-events and
a diving competition. The order of the events for a dual meet is always as follows:
  • 200 Yard Medley Relay
  • 200 Yard Freestyle
  • 200 Yard Individual Medley
  • 50 Yard Freestyle
  • Diving (preceded and followed by a 10 minute warm-up period)
  • 100 Yard Butterfly
  • 100 Yard Freestyle
  • 500 Yard Freestyle
  • 200 Yard Freestyle Relay
  • 100 Yard Backstroke
  • 100 Yard Breaststroke
  • 400 Yard Freestyle Relay

Dual Meets (Diving)

The diving format for dual meets can get a bit confusing.  Divers are required to perform one voluntary dive and five optional dives for a total of six dives for each meet.  Voluntary dives are the simpler ones, such as a front dive, a back dive, a reverse dive, or an inward dive. Optional dives can be any dive except the one performed for the voluntary dive.  For example, if you perform a front dive for your voluntary dive, you may use a back dive, a reverse dive, or an inward dive for your optionals, as well as any other dive that is listed in the State High School League list of dives.  If you thought that part was confusing, just wait… Each week, the voluntary dive that must be performed changes. The first meet, a front must be done as the voluntary; the second meet, a back; the third meet, a reverse; the fourth meet, an inward; the fifth meet, a twister; and that cycle continues until the dual meet season is over. If you’ve been thinking hard about this format, you might have realized that there are only five groups but the divers are required to compete six dives. What is nice about this format is the voluntary dive is counted completely separate from the optional dives. Therefore, the divers must perform five optionals from only four groups, without repeating the dive they did for their voluntary. While this can be confusing, the coach understands the format and continues to teach the divers throughout the season.

For dual meets (which have a maximum of four entries per team):

  • Relays:  The top 3 placed are scored: 8-4-2; only two relay teams being allowed to score for each team.
  • Individual swimming events: The top 5 places are scored: 6-4-3-2-1.
  • Diving events:  The diving competition is scored as an individual event and the top 5 placed are the same as an individual event:  6-4-3-2-1.  The judging is comprised of three judges, one from each team’s coaching staff, and one official.  Each dive, no matter what it is, is assigned a degree of difficulty based on how difficult the dive is to perform. There is a very long formula to figure out each dive’s degree of difficulty, so it won’t be covered here. Just know that, the more difficult the dive is, the larger multiplier will be applied to the judge’s scores. This gives the divers an incentive to perform the more difficult dives. Each dive’s total score is added up to get a final score, which then determines the final ranking of the divers.
  • Final Score:  Once a team scores 94 points they have enough points to win the meet.  Many coaches will swim exhibition after they pass the 94 point mark so they don’t run up the score.  This is done out of courtesy to the other team, a “Minnesota nice” thing!

It’s important to note, unlike club meets, times swam at meets during the team season do not qualify a swimmer for state competition.  State qualifying times must be achieved at section finals.  There are no ribbons or other awards at dual meets, just an opportunity for swimmers to better their times, help the team score points, and maybe even set a new record!

Relay, Conference, Section and State Meets

  • Relay Meets – At these meets, several teams are invited.  Only relay events are swam; no individual events take place.  A variety of relay events are swam that are not part of a typical dual meet.  For instance, one relay might be a 200 breaststroke relay, with each swimmer doing a 50-yard breaststroke.
  • Conference Meet – Usually held at the beginning of the season, this meet is an opportunity for everyone in the conference to get together and swim.  The format is the same as a dual meet, but the number of teams participating means more heats and a longer meet.
  • True Team Section Meet – This meet is designed and scored to test a team’s depth.  Teams can enter four individuals and four relays in each event.  All competitors score points in every event.  The teams competing are the same teams that are in our section.  Not all teams choose to participate in this meet.  The top team qualifies for the True Team State Meet which is held the following weekend.
  • Section Meet – Each team gets four individual entries and one relay for event.  At this meet, athletes swim their strongest events in a preliminary round on Friday.  The top 16 swimmers and relay teams in each event advance to finals on Saturday.  Places nine through 16 swim a consolation heat.  Places one through eight compete in the championship heat. Medals are awarded to the top eight swimmers and a podium-ceremony is done following each event.  Only during the consolation or championship finals can a swimmer qualify for state competition.
  • State Meet – The top two finishers, along with any other competitors who swim a qualifying state time in each event at section finals, qualify for the Minnesota State High School Championship Meet.  The State Meet is held at the University of MN Aquatic Center.  It is a great achievement to qualify for this meet celebrating the state’s top swimmers.
  • Diving at True Team, Sections and State Meets – The format for these meets is different than the dual meets, yet they are scored the same way. In these meets divers 11 dives rather than the six performed in dual meets. Of the 11 dives performed, five are voluntary dives and six are optional. Competitors must have a larger repertoire of dives they can perform, so only the more advanced divers attend these meets. The top four divers at the section meet advance to the state meet.