If The NCAA Held An Open Water Swimming Championship

If The NCAA Held An Open Water Swimming Championship

WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Since the announcement by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) of its new 10km open water swimming event to its Summer Universiades (known at the World University Games), it has been quite easy to imagine a collegiate open water swimming championship to be held sometime in the near future in America.

We have observed the success of USA Triathlon in approaching, marketing and promoting its sport to college students through its collegiate recruitment program and Collegiate National Championships.

We envision the same for open water swimming.

Thinking creatively, this is what we imagine for open water swimming in the American college ranks:

1. An annual championship that is held in conjunction either with the national collegiate triathlon championships or the traditional NCAA men’s and women’s swimming championships. This addition would be timely, especially if the men’s and women’s collegiate championships are combined as is currently been discussed.

2. A 3km or 5km distance in a compact course so the competitors can be seen throughout the race from one vantage point. Racing for less than an hour is important to keep the excitement up. Spectator boats can be provided for fans and the media. These concepts will be tested at the upcoming USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships in Long Beach, California.

3. An annual rotation of venues between an East Coast seaside course, a Southern lake course, a West Coast ocean course and a Midwest lake course. Touching the four corners of America an provide a variety of conditions and venues that would call attention to the beauty of the country and the sport of open water swimming.

4. If the race is held in collaboration with triathlon in a standard 1.5K triathlon swim leg course, the course can be set for a 2-loop 3km race. Alternatively, a 5km course can be 3 loops of the 1.5km triathlon course + an extra 500 meters at the start or finish. We recommend a shoreline start and finish in order to add an extra element of excitement for the athletes, fans and media.

5. Team scoring can be kept as the NCAA does in its cross-country running championships.

6. Time qualifications should be slower than the current NCAA Division I time standards so open water can draw from a wider net of potential competitors. Swimmers could qualify by meeting time standards in any of the current stroke or distance events (e.g., 100 butterfly, 200 breaststroke, 400 individual medley or 1650 freestyle).

7. An alternative race format could be the 3km Open Water Pursuit race. The race can be a single-sex 3-person format and/or a mixed-gender 4-person format where the athletes draft off one another and athletes switching positions in the lead to create a fast-moving efficient peloton in the water. A randomly selected staggered start of 10-15 seconds with athletes decked out in their college gear would generate substantial excitement.

This Open Water Pursuit concept, soon to be tested at the Pacific Open Water after the USA Swimming National Championships, would leverage the boundless collegiate spirit, enable teamwork, showcase racing tactics and effectively eliminate much of the physicality (i.e., jostling) and maneuvering that occurs in mass races with solo swimmers.

8. An addition or alternative to the Open Water Pursuit would be a traditional 4-person relay where each leg would be short (e.g., 500 meters) and the exchanges would be crowded, physical and exciting.

9. Split times should be taken and post-race video analysis should be conducted for a better understanding of pacing, positioning, navigating and stroke technique to enhance performance levels. These concepts will be tested at the upcoming USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships.

Time has come for collegiate open water swimming. Triathletes are doing it and are currently lobbying the NCAA. Our community can do the same.

Photo by SuperKidzPhoto at the 2009 Pacific Open Water which was conducted in a compact rowing basin, an ideal location to kick-start this idea.

Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones