• Swimming & Diving: Boys

High School Swimming and Diving 101

  • High School Swimming and Diving 101: THE BASICS

    About High School Swim & Dive

    If you are new to high school swimming and diving, you may find it a bit confusing…but HANG IN THERE!  It’s awesome!!

    High school swim and dive is one combined, competitive team sport, structured somewhat like the collegiate sport. Thus, both the swimmers and divers compete against the same schools in the same meets. Depending on type of meet and where it is being held, diving is conducted either before or during the swimming competition. Swim and dive points are added together for each team to determine the meet scores

    Here is an overview of what to expect and how to enjoy the high school season:

    Dual Meets (Swimming)

    The high school season consists of a number of dual meets.  Don’t look for meet programs that list each swimmer competing by event since teams do not turn in a lineup until shortly before the meet.  The swimmers’ events can be changed by either team virtually up to the minute they compete, depending on the strategy of the coaches and the progression of the meet.  All high school dual meets have 11 swimming events – eight individual events and three relay events. For dual meets, each team enters three swimmers in each individual event and three relay teams in each relay event (in an 8 lane pool a fourth competitor for each team may be entered as exhibition).  Swimmers may enter a maximum of four events, no more than two of which can be individual events. Swimmers are selected by the coach for each event or relay based on their times and the coach’s goals for that meet. By rule, the visiting team gets to select their choice of odd or even lanes.  Dependent on the meet, swimmers may have the opportunity to swim “off events” to mix things up and have some fun. For these more relaxed meets, relay teams may be scrambled as well.


    A typical dual meet has three relay swim-events, eight individual swim-events and
    a diving competition. The order of events for a dual meet is always as follows:
    • 200 Yard Medley Relay
    • 200 Yard Freestyle
    • 200 Yard Individual Medley
    • 50 Yard Freestyle
    • Diving (preceded and followed by a 10 minute warm-up period)
    • 100 Yard Butterfly
    • 100 Yard Freestyle
    • 500 Yard Freestyle
    • 200 Yard Freestyle Relay
    • 100 Yard Backstroke
    • 100 Yard Breaststroke
    • 400 Yard Freestyle Relay

    Dual Meets (Diving)

    The diving format for dual meets can get a bit confusing.  Divers are required to perform one voluntary dive and five optional dives for a total of six dives for each meet.  Voluntary dives are the simpler ones, such as a front dive, a back dive, a reverse dive, or an inward dive. Optional dives can be any dive except the one performed for the voluntary dive.  For example, if you perform a front dive for your voluntary dive, you may use a back dive, a reverse dive, or an inward dive for your optionals, as well as any other dive that is listed in the State High School League list of dives.  If you thought that part was confusing, just wait… Each week, the voluntary dive that must be performed changes. The first meet, a front must be done as the voluntary; the second meet, a back; the third meet, a reverse; the fourth meet, an inward; the fifth meet, a twister; and that cycle continues until the dual meet season is over. If you’ve been thinking hard about this format, you might have realized that there are only five groups but the divers are required to compete six dives. What is nice about this format is the voluntary dive is counted completely separate from the optional dives. Therefore, the divers must perform five optionals from only four groups, without repeating the dive they did for their voluntary. While this can be confusing, the coach understands the format and continues to teach the divers throughout the season.
    For dual meets (which have a maximum of three or four entries per team):


    • Relays:  The top 3 placed are scored: 8-4-2; only two relay teams being allowed to score for each team.
    • Individual swimming events: The top 5 places are scored: 6-4-3-2-1; only three individuals being allowed to score for each team.
    • Diving events:  The diving competition is scored as an individual event and the top 5 placed are the same as an individual event:  6-4-3-2-1.  The judging is comprised of three judges, one from each team’s coaching staff, and one official.  Each dive, no matter what it is, is assigned a degree of difficulty based on how difficult the dive is to perform. There is a very long formula to figure out each dive’s degree of difficulty, so it won’t be covered here. Just know that, the more difficult the dive is, the larger multiplier will be applied to the judge’s scores. This gives the divers an incentive to perform the more difficult dives. Each dive’s total score is added up to get a final score, which then determines the final ranking of the divers.
    • Final Score:  Once a team scores 94 points they have enough points to win the meet.  Many coaches will swim exhibition after they pass the 94 point mark so they don’t run up the score.  This is done out of courtesy to the other team, a “Minnesota nice” thing!

    It’s important to note, unlike club meets, times swam at meets during the team season do not qualify a swimmer for the MSHSL state meet.  State qualifying times must be achieved at section finals (not prelims).  There are no ribbons or other awards at dual meets, just an opportunity for swimmers to better their times, help the team score points, and maybe even set a new record - personal, pool, and/or team!


    Relay, Invitational, Section and State Meets

    • Relay Meets – At these meets, several teams are invited.  Only relay events are swam; no individual events take place.  A variety of relay events are swam that are not part of a typical dual meet.  For instance, one relay might be a 200 breaststroke relay, with each swimmer doing a 50-yard breaststroke.
    • Invitational Meet – Multiple teams are invited to a meet with the same standard order of events as a dual meet. Scoring varies based on the type of invitational, how many team entries are accepted, and how many places score.
    • MSHSCA True Team Section and State Meet – This meet is designed and scored to test a team’s depth.  Teams can enter four individuals and four relays in each event.  All competitors score points in every event.  The teams competing are the same teams that are in our section.  Not all teams choose to participate in this meet.  The top team qualifies for the True Team State Meet which is held the following weekend. These meets are organized and run by a group of swimming and diving coaches via the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association (MSHSCA), not the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL).
    • MSHSL Section Meet – Each team may enter four individual entries and one relay per event.  At this meet, athletes swim their strongest events in a preliminary session on Day 1.  The top 16 swimmers and relay teams in each event advance to finals on Day 2.  Qualifiers nine through sixteen swim in a consolation heat.  Qualifiers one through eight compete in the championship heat. Medals are awarded to the top eight swimmers and a podium-ceremony is done following each event.  A swimmer or relay may only qualify for state competition during the consolation and championship finals on Day 2.
    • MSHSL State Meet – The top two finishers, along with any other competitors who swim a qualifying state time in each event at section finals, qualify for the Minnesota State High School Championship Meet.  The State Meet is held at the University of MN Aquatic Center.  The meet is a prelims/finals format over three days (Day 1 = Diving, Day 2 = Swimming Prelims, Day 3 = Swimming and Diving Finals). It is a great achievement to qualify for this meet celebrating the state’s top swimmers.
    • Diving at True Team, Sections and State Meets – The format for these meets is different than the dual meets, yet they are scored the same way. In these meets divers perform eleven dives rather than the six performed in dual meets. Of the eleven dives performed, five are voluntary dives and six are optional. Competitors must have a larger repertoire of dives they can perform, so only the more advanced divers attend these meets. The preliminary round goes through the first five dives, and the field is cut to twenty divers. The semi-final round then goes through eight dives, and the field is then cut to sixteen divers. The final round then goes through eleven dives, and the event is scored. The top four divers at the section meet advance to the state meet. There is no qualifying standard like swimming - only the top four places advance.