How do swimmers qualify for the NCAA Division I Swimming Championships?
Every year collegiate swimmers throughout the country are hungry to punch their ticket to one of the most selective, high stakes meets in all of swimming. The NCAA Division I Swimming Championships are regarded by many swimmers as being even more challenging to qualify for than the U.S. Olympic Trials. With a limited number of openings available, qualifying for the championships is no easy feat.
The NCAA allows 235 slots (men) and 281 slots (women) for individual events at the meet. Additionally, each team has a maximum roster capacity of 18 athletes. If a team manages to qualify more than 18 swimmers, they would be forced to leave excess athletes behind.
In individual races, swimmers who swim equal or faster than an NCAA “A” cut are automatically qualified for the championships. Although, swimmers who fail to achieve this cut still have an opportunity to qualify for the championships. The NCAA will invite swimmers who have an NCAA “B” cut to the meet as well. However, the meet is capped at 32 swimmers (men) and 41 swimmers (women) per event . Meaning, every swimmer with an NCAA “A” cut immediately goes, and the remaining slots are filled in with the swimmers next in line who achieved the “B” cut. The CSCAA lists the 2023 "A" and "B" cuts for each event.
Relays are also a part of the meets lineup. For a relay team to qualify for the championships, the 4 swimmer squad must achieve an NCAA “A” cut. Unlike individual events, the NCAA does not invite athletes who achieve a “B” cut. Nonetheless, once a team has an “A” standard relay, they can also enter all relays in which they have a “B” standard, this is known as a “Provisional Standard.” Additionally, if a school has 4 individual swimmers qualified for the championships, they can swim together on a relay where they have at least a “B” cut.
Confusing? Yes. Inspiring? Definitely. The NCAA Division I Swimming Championships take place in March of every year. Bookmark those cuts, because you’ll need them.