Take Home Points on 2014 NCAA Championship Relay Performances
Relays are undoubtedly among the most exciting races in college swimming, particularly in national championships. With much publicity added this year due to a rash of disqualifications, relay performance has come under additional scrutiny.
Though relays are often assumed to be a deciding factor in many championships, it is worth closer examination to determine to what extent relays may affect point totals. Now, it is difficult to completely separate relay performance from individual performance due to individuals also making up relay teams. But looking at the point total breakdown may also lend perspective into the relative importance relays for the meet's outcome.
For additional discussion on technical elements of relay starts and finishes, see Relay Starts: Championship Implications, and How the New Omega Starting Blocks Affect Relay Takeoffs.
In the chart below, we list both the final point total for the top 10 squads and top 10 relay placings for the five total relay events.
Though the top three times were identical in relays and total points, Michigan and Georgia both improved their overall placing above Auburn on the strength of individual events. Also of note is that Arizona, USC, Stanford, and Indiana all cracked the top 10 despite not being among the top 10 relay scoring teams for the meet.
The chart below summarizes the women's breakdown.
What stands out most here is that Georgia resoundingly made up the relay performance gap through consistent individual performances throughout the meet, despite Stanford almost sweeping the relay events. Unlike the men, where several teams entered the overall top 10 without being among the top 10 relay scoring teams, each of the top 9 women's squads was also among the top 9 relay scoring teams.
Though relays are critical for overall outcome, it is still possible to make up placing if a team is outperformed in relays for the meet. Relays and individual events both reward team depth, but in different ways. Putting together a winning relay and stacking an individual event final are both potential winning strategies.
Written by Allan Phillips is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and owner of Pike Athletics. He is also an ASCA Level II coach and USA Triathlon coach. Allan is a co-author of the Troubleshooting System and was selected by Dr. Mullen as an assistant editor of the Swimming Science Research Review. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at US Army-Baylor University.