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Reading a Heat Sheet and Results Report

What is a Heat Sheet?

This is the printed listing displayed before and during a meet that tells swimmers what events they will compete in. It also defines the swimmer's lane assignment per event. Lanes are typically assigned based on seed times, with the fastest swimmers in the center of the pool. Events are listed in order usually alternating girls and boys events.

Sample Individual Event from a Heat Sheet: 


Seed time is the fastest time a swimmer or team of swimmers has swum an event prior to the submission of entries for the meet. For individuals, this is the time entered for the swimmer for the event, and is a good goal to try to beat. It also factors into lane placement and heat number. Swimmers with no seed time will usually be in the first heat. The heats are usually placed with the faster seed times at the end.

An “NT” listed for seed time means no seed time has yet been recorded for that swimmer, i.e. that swimmer has not competed in that event, or was disqualified during the event.

An X in front of seed time means the swimmer is swimming an exhibition heat. In exhibition heats, swimmers receive a time, but do not score points for the team. Exhibition heats are performed so that more swimmers can participate in events, and are a valuable opportunity to get a legal time for championship eligibility, or achieve one’s personal best.

Individual Medleys (IM) are swum in order:
1) Butterfly, 2) Backstroke, 3) Breaststroke, 4) Freestyle.
It’s important for swimmers to know the order, because any other order will result in a “DQ” or disqualification.

As in the example above, swimmers in age groups 6 & under and 8 & under swim one length of the pool, or 25 meters, whereas older swimmers swim two lengths, down and back, or 50 meters. In their relay medleys, swimmers 1 and 3 enter the water at one end of the pool, and swimmers 2 and 4 at the opposite end. Older swimmers start and finish at the same point. 

Relay medleys are swum in order:

1) Backstroke, 2) Breaststroke, 3) Butterfly, 4) Freestyle.

Accordingly, in the relay event below, Nicholas Wolf will swim backstroke, Keith Miller the breaststroke, Ryan Anthony the butterfly, and Chris Carlin the freestyle. They will swim in Heat 1, Lane 4. Their team has not yet received a legal seed time, so they have “NT.” This team is in the age group that swims two lengths of the pool, or 50 meters, each, which is reflected in the 200 meter event distance. 


How do you figure out the lane and heat assignments?

The computer places everyone in a particular event by age groups (5&6, 7&8, 9&10,11&12, 13&14, or 15-18) and will start with the fastest 6 swimmers. The fastest two (best recorded times either from meets or possibly time trials) go in the middle lanes the next fastest go in lane 2 and lane 5 and finally lane 1 and lane 6 unless there is a child with a disability. They may be pulled into lane 1 next to the starter. This is the last heat to race in an event.

If there are 6 or more swimmers for this event the computer will take the next 6 fastest swimmers and place them the fastest in the middle two lanes and so and so on. They will be in the next to last heat or race. Then the computer puts all the NT swimmers in the first heat or race in a random order.

Do you ever change heat or lane assignments after the heat sheet has been posted?

Sometimes after we have checked all children into a meet we need to go to the computer person and delete swimmers who have not showed or are sick. We then remove these swimmers from the event. This will change the heat sheet which impacts heat and lane assignments. Another situation that changes the actual heat sheet is from time to time events may be merged. Generally if there is a race that has only a few swimmers, they may combine like events. For example, if there are only 2 relay teams for the boys and 1 for the girls we may merge those teams into one heat. Often times this can be done prior to a meet and prior to production of the heat sheet but it may also not be decided upon until the actual meet. Generally announcements will be made advising of this event just prior to the swim. So really the most important thing on the arm is the event and what stroke it represents.

What is a heat ribbon?

The heat and lane assignments are managed by seed time to allow the most comparable swimmers to swim together in a heat. The winner of that heat will win a heat ribbon at the swim meet. Although the swimmer has won first place in his heat that does not mean he has won first place for the entire event. The fastest swimmer of all of the heats in the event will place first.

What are those swimmers writing on their arms?

In order for everyone to remember, swimmers should write their events on their arms or legs, etc. Here is the way that most swimmers do it:

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