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A Brief Primer on NCAA Selection

Written By: Alexis Keto


NCAA championship qualification is a highly nuanced process at all three levels - equal parts mystery, luck and magic. Each division has a total participant limit, a combination of swimmers & divers, which varies depending on the division. Individual team rosters, however, hold the same requirement of 18 athletes, including divers. Divers are a special consideration for roster spots in each division. Division 3 & Division 2 count divers as 1/3 of a roster spot, Division 1 counts divers as ½. This means 3 divers (or 2 divers) equal one of the 18 roster spots.


Entry limits are also similar. Athletes in all divisions can enter 8 events but will need to scratch down to no more than 7 events (with no more than 3 individual events). Once an athlete is selected, an athlete can swim in events they meet the B standard in, not to exceed three individual events.


The final participant selection process, however, illustrates the philosophical differences between the divisions.


To fill the participant limits – each division has a subtly different process.


Division 1 & 2 start with individual events and invite all athletes under the A standard and then fill in numbers based off greatest percentage under B cuts to get all individual events to have the same number.

For example, If the 50 has 20 A Qualifiers, then the 400 IM will also have to have 20 qualifiers – even if there aren’t 20 A qualifiers.


However, Division 3 brings the top 16 men and top 20 women in individual and relay events, Relay-only participants can also swim any individual event that they hold a B standard. Currently, this is the only division that allows for relay-only participants to have individual events.


Division 1 focuses primarily on Qualifying relays (A Standard) only but also allows teams with four invited individual athletes to swim relays where they hold a B standard.


Division 2 has two methods for relays. Either a team can have 4 individual swimmers and swim all available relays, or a team can have 1 individual athlete and swim any relay they meet the provisional standard in.


In all three divisions, the relay-only swimmers count against the 18-person limit.


Once the final roster is set, a list of alternates is determined by greatest percentage under the B standard if invited athletes cannot participate. Kind of like Miss America’s first runner-up.


Coaches have 24 hours after the invited psych sheet posts to finalize their roster to the 18-athlete limit. It can be a very painful and agonizing decision both for coaches and athletes, but it is a rare difficulty.


If you’d like to see a glimpse into the NCAA selection process, check out the pre-championship information below. We’ll address NJCAA & NAIA on a separate post as those are significantly different.



Chief Operations Officer at Streamline Teams

25th year coaching

B.A. Northwestern University

M.A. North Carolina State University


Coach Alexis Keto believes in the well-rounded, socially-aware athlete and infuses this philosophy into each workout, competition & team endeavor. Each swimmer has the potential to be successful, and she feels that coaches should help swimmers discover their pathways to success and to their goals on a personal and individualized level. Over her 20-plus years of coaching, Alexis has had the good fortune of coaching at every level of the sport - summer league, high school, club and college. In her twelve years at Colorado, the team grew from 4 state qualifiers to 75 state qualifiers, 40+ Sectional qualifiers, Multiple State Record Holders, Junior National (USA/NCSA/ISCA) Qualifiers and National/Olympic Trial athletes. This tradition of excellence continued most recently with New Trier Aquatics with World Championship Trials and Senior National finalists. Perhaps her greatest pride, however, is her ability to use her college coaching/recruiting experience at NC State & Northwestern to help athletes find the perfect college - whether at Division 1 schools or NAIA schools. Over 50 athletes have continued their swimming career at the collegiate level with an impressive number becoming team captains during their college tenure. Every swimmer has something to give to the team and has something to gain from the sport and Coach Alexis is eager to develop all facets of the athlete. She is also actively involved in the development of the sport of swimming at state and national level, currently serving on national committees, formerly very active in the development of the Western Senior Zone Championships and she has held several positions in the Colorado LSC. Her involvement is not just in governance, as she has coached and developed several local, zone and national camps & teams - as part of the task force for the inaugural 2018 Leadership Summit and as head coach of the 2018 Eastern Zone Select Camp. She currently is on the USA Swimming Club Development Committee and the Awards Committee.



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