003.002 Age Group Championship Meets

USA Swimming provides for three types of age group championship meets: (1) one LSC Age Group Championship Meet per LSC per season; (2) one Zone Age Group Championship Meet per zone per season; and (3) one Zone Senior Championship Meet per zone in August for 15/Over athletes.  To compete in an event at one of these prestigious age group championship meets, an athlete must belong to the sponsoring LSC/Zone and have recently achieved a qualifying time in that event.

Two Levels of Age Group Championships.

USA Swimming is organized into four geographic zones and 59 geographic regions called “Local Swim Committees” (LSCs).  The boundaries of these LSCs tend to align with state boundaries.


Each LSC is responsible for organizing an end-of-season championship meet for the age group swimmers in its region.  These meets, typically called “Junior Olympics” or “JOs” for short, are open to the fastest athletes in the LSC. Each Zone is responsible for organizing another end-of-season age group championship meet, called “Zones”, which are open to the fastest age group athletes in the Zone.  Most age group athletes aspire to compete in JOs and Zones, and view their participation in those meets as a sign of their success in the sport.


To participate in an event at these championship meets, an athlete must have swum the event before, and achieved a designated maximum time in the event.  For example, to compete in the Girls 10/Under 50 yard Freestyle at the 2019 Potomac Valley SC Junior Olympics, a 10 year old girl must have swum that event in 32.69 seconds or less.  To swim that same event at the 2019 Eastern Zone SC Age Group Championships, the same girl needs a 29.59 or less.


These time standards are chosen to achieve a target level of participation.  LSCs with more athletes typically have more challenging time standards than LSCs with fewer athletes.  Zone age group championships, which are open to the athletes in multiple LSCs, have the most challenging time standards.

Our Analysis Restricted to Ages 9-14.

Our goal is to compare age group championships across LSCs and Zones.  To do that meaningfully, we need to put our analysis of these diverse meets on the same basis.  For that reason, our analysis of these meets is limited to the ages 9 to 14.


We start at 9 years old because (a) very few 8/under athletes qualify for zone age group championships; and (b) some LSC age group championships provide for an 8/Under age group while most do not.  If our analysis included 8/Unders, we would not be able to fairly compare meets with 8/Under qualifying times to those without.


We stop at 14 years old because (a) most age group championship meets are limited to 14/Under; (b) faster 15/over athletes participate in zone senior championships rather than zone age group championships; and (c) the fastest 15/over athletes compete in an entirely different set of championships under the USA-S Senior Program (sectionals, futures, junior nationals, and nationals).  If our analysis included 15/Overs, we would not be able to fairly compare championships that include 15/Overs with those that do not.


Nonetheless, the reader should be aware that the fastest 13/Over athletes do not typically participate in zone age group championships.