Oct 28 2021

It has become an annual tradition to post an overview of how the WIAA conducts the state championship meet.   Below is an updated version for 2021.  Thanks to Phil McDade for starting this tradition.  We are happy to share this year's version for those who are new to high school swimming and for those who want a refresher of how it all works.

Conference meets are underway -- the Classic 8 Conference and the GNC Conference held their conference meets last weekend.  By the end of Saturday, all conferences in the state will have finished their annual conference swim meets. With sectional and state meets just around the corner, here's a guide to how it all works:

Following conference meets, teams gear up for sectional and state meets. Sectionals are held Nov. 5-6 -- 6 meets in Division 1, and 4 meets in Division 2. Wondering who swims where? Click on these links from the WIAA.



Teams are divided into D1 and D2 based solely on high school enrollment (or the combined enrollments of multiple high schools for teams that form co-ops). The largest 60 percent of swim programs are placed in D1; the remaining 40 percent are D2.

Sectional time-lines can be found here:


Parents and swim fans may want to take note of the time that the pools open for fans; with rare exceptions, few sectional pools enjoy large seating areas, so it's always a tight fit for the sectional meets.

Here’s a rundown on how sectional and state meets operate:

For the sectional meet, each team is limited to 18 individual event entries and 1 relay per relay event. So, unlike many conference meets or regular-season invites, there are no B relays at sectionals -- only a team's best relays swim in the three relay events. The 18 individual entries can be divided any way a coach wants to - theoretically, a coach could put all 18 of them in the 50 free (which would mean 18 different swimmers!). There are nine individual events at sectionals - eight swimming events, plus diving. So the 18 individual entries average out to two entries per event. Teams sometimes will "load up" events they are strong in; it's not unusual to see teams strong in distance swimming, for instance, enter three or four swimmers in the longer races. Of course, that means the team can only place one or no entries into another event. There is no requirement that teams put a swimmer/diver in each event; the WIAA allows a team to put as many or as few competitors in any given event as it wants.

Swimmers (and divers) are limited to a maximum of two individual events, and four events total including relays. They can participate in any two individual events - and coaches can enter someone in diving and have that same competitor swim one individual swim event (it’s been done). There are no restrictions on what those two individual events are. The other option is that a swimmer (or multiple swimmers) can take part in three relays, and just one individual event. But swimmers are not allowed to compete in three individual events; the maximum number of individual events is two per swimmer, and all competitors are limited to four events (individual + relays) at sectionals. Also, teams can enter a competitor in just one individual event, and nothing else, or just have a swimmer do relays, and nothing else. Any combination that doesn't exceed two individual events maximum and four events total is acceptable.

Sectional entries are due to the WIAA Tuesday, November 2 at noon. Sometime Tuesday – late afternoon or early evening – the WIAA will post psych sheets for each of the events at each sectional. (Psych sheet: swimming lingo for a list of swimmers and their seed times – from fastest to slowest – in each event.) WISCA will post a link to the psych sheets when posted on the WIAA website.

How to qualify for state: The sectional champions in each event (individual and relays) at each of the 10 sectional meets qualify for state - no matter their time or dive score. If you win, you're in. Division 1 is allotted 24 slots at state, so besides the six automatic sectional-winner qualifiers, everyone else qualifies based on time/score. So that means the next 18 fastest swimmers qualify, no matter which sectional they swim at. (In theory, all 18 remaining qualifiers could come out of one sectional.) Division 2 has 16 state slots, and there are four sectionals, and thus four automatic qualifiers in each event. The next 12 competitors qualify strictly on time/score, for 16 total qualifiers. (This is perhaps the distinctive feature of high school swimming when compared to club swimming. In high school, there is no pre-set qualifying time/score that qualifies a competitor into the state meet. Swimmers and divers have only one shot at getting to state - which means doing well at sectionals.) And, yes, there are occasions when a sectional winner, and thus an automatic qualifier for state, will have a slower time than a swimmer who doesn't make the top 18 (D1) or top 12 (D2) remaining slots for the state meet. Also, ties get in – if two or more swimmers or relays (or divers, for that matter) tie for the last qualifying slot, they all go to state. And in the rare instance of a tie for 1st place at sectionals (and that's happened), both swimmers go to state as sectional champions and the fastest remaining 18 (D1) or 12 (D2) swimmers qualify.

The WIAA posts results from each sectional sometime in the early evening of Saturday, Nov. 6th. In addition, the WIAA will post a qualifying times list (the final time that qualifies for state) on its website Saturday, so competitors (and coaches and parents) can quickly see if a time/score qualifies for state. Lane assignments for the state meet are posted by the WIAA sometime late Saturday or Sunday on its website; we'll post a link on the WISCA site as well.

A somewhat obscure but nonetheless important point: Relays qualify for state as a team, not as the four individuals who swam at sectionals. In other words, coaches are free to change their relay line-ups between sectionals and state. And this happens fairly often -- coaches will often try to get all three relays to state, then switch things around to build up two stronger relays. Any swimmer on a team is eligible to swim on a state-qualifying relay; the swimmer is not required to have otherwise qualified for state in some manner. But individual qualifiers are "locked into" the state meet in their events, and those can't be changed after sectional qualifying. (Occasionally you see an empty lane at the state meet, which is a scratch. The next-fastest sectional swimmer -- or the scratched swimmer's teammate -- cannot fill the spot of a swimmer who scratches from the state meet.)

The Division 2 state meet is Friday, Nov. 12, with the Division 1 meet held Saturday, Nov. 13.  See the WIAA website here for schedule https://www.wiaawi.org/Sports/Fall/Girls-Swim-Dive/Tournament

Swimmers and relays are seeded into the state meet based on their sectional qualifying times. At the state meet, there are three heats in each event in D1, and two heats in D2, run slowest to fastest. Swimmers can - and do - score points from any of the heats at state (several swimmers and relays in recent state meets have taken 1st place without swimming in the final, fastest heat). Points are awarded at both sectionals and state through 16 places with a standard 20-point system (20 points for 1st, 17 for 2nd, 16 for 3rd, and so on). Relay points are doubled (40 for 1st place, 34 for 2nd, 32 for 3rd, and so on). For divers in D1, there is a preliminary round of diving, and then the field of 24 is cut to 20 divers, and another round of dives until the field is cut to 16 divers for the final three rounds of diving. There is no cutoff during the D2 diving competition. The top six divers, swimmers, and relays at state earn a coveted spot on the podium and are recognized during the meet. Team trophies are awarded to the top two teams in each division at the end of the meet.

Any questions? Post in the comments section, and we'll try to track down an answer.

Good luck to all competitors! (And parents, coaches, fans, and meet officials as well.)