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WZ2019L

In this post, we analyze the qualifying times for the upcoming 2019 Western Zone Long Course Age Group Championships (WZ2019L).  We’ll show that the qualifying times for this meet provide significantly more opportunity to boys at the expense of girls, and to older athletes at the expense of younger athletes.  The gender disparity is greatest in the 11-12 age group, where a boy is expected to qualify for 1.7 times more events than a girl.


To analyze the difficulty of making a cut, we’ll use our historical database of 23 million USA-S age group swims to calculate athlete acceptance likelihoods.  The acceptance likelihood for an event is the number of USA-S athletes in the event’s age range that swam at least as fast the the event’s qualifying time, divided by the total number of USA-S athletes in the age range.  For technical background, please review “The Fairness of Qualifying Times”.  For analysis of the 2018 Zone Age Group Championship qualifying times, see “Zone Championships are Unfair”.

Overview.

Our analysis begins with an overview of the WZ2019L qualifying times by age group.  This chart plots the average number of events that an athlete will qualify for in WZ2019L by age group.  It shows that on average 10/Unders qualify for 0.15 events each, 11-12 year olds qualify for 0.34 events each, and 13-14 year olds qualify for 0.54 events each.


To show the age disparity more clearly, we plot the ratio of the 13-14 expected acceptances to the other age groups.  On average, a 13-14 year old is expected to qualify for 3.6 times as many events as a 6-10 year old and 1.6 as many events as an 11-12 year old.



Breaking down the age group expected acceptances by gender reveals that a boy is expected to qualify for more events than a girl in every age group.


To show this gender disparity more clearly, we plot the ratio of the boy’s expected acceptances to the girl’s.  This plot shows that a boy is expected to qualify for 1.3 to 1.7 times as many events as a girl, depending on the age group..



The next plot breaks the expected acceptances down by athlete age in years.  It shows that 8/Unders have a negligible chance to qualify for any events in this championship meet, and that it’s more difficult for athletes at the bottom of their age groups to make these cuts.  That’s the nature of age groups, which are not inherently unfair when evaluated over an athlete's lifetime.


The remainder of this post analyzes the individual events in each age group.  We’ll learn that it’s easier for a boy to qualify for every event in this meet than a girl.  The most unfair event in the meet is the 11-12 50 Free, where a boy has 3 times the likelihood qualifying as a girl.

10/Under Events.

The easiest 10/Under events to qualify for are the 50m and 100m backstroke, for both boys and girls.


To quantify the gender disparity in the 10/Under qualifying times, we next plot the ratio of the boy’s acceptance likelihood to the girl’s.  This plot shows that all ten 10/Under events favor boys at the expense of girls. The most unfair 10/Under events are the 50 Fly and the 200 IM, where a boy has 1.7 and 1.6 times greater likelihood of qualifying than a girl, respectively.


11-12 Events.

Turning now to the 11-12 events, we see it’s easiest for boys to qualify in the backstroke events, and that it’s easier for girls to qualify in the longer events than the shorter ones.

To quantify the gender disparity in these 11-12 qualifying times, we next plot the ratio of the boy’s acceptance likelihood to the girl’s.  This plot shows that all fifteen 11-12 events favor boys at the expense of girls. A boy has more than 1.5 times the likelihood of qualifying than a girl in eleven of the fifteen events.  The 50 Free has the most unfair qualifying times, with a boy having 3 times greater likelihood of qualifying than a girl.


13-14 Events.

Looking next at the 13-14 events, we can see that the backstroke events are again the easiest to qualify for.


To quantify the gender disparity in these 13-14 qualifying times, we plot the ratio of the boy’s acceptance likelihood to the girl's.  This plot shows that all fifteen 13-14 events favor boys at the expense of girls. The most unfair events are the 400 Free and 1500 Free, where a boy has 1.5 times greater likelihood of qualifying than a girl.


Conclusion.

We’ve seen that the qualifying times for the 2019 Western Zone Long Course Age Group Championship provide significantly more opportunity to boys at the expense of girls, and to older athletes at the expense of younger athletes.   To address these inequities, we recommend that future Western Zone Long Course Age Group Championships use the “AAA” USA-S age group motivational times, which are known to be gender-fair overall.