GRIN opts to forgo Fall Classic; board to discuss future options

The GRIN board has made the difficult decision not to host the annual Fall Classic short-course meters swim meet this year.

This decision clearly will disappoint some swimmers. The meet, though, has suffered from low attendance, high overhead costs associated with renting the Natatorium and scheduling difficulties. The meet traditionally has been held the last weekend of October. While that’s a tough weekend for many of our swimmers to compete, it’s one of the few available to rent at the heavily-used nat. Attendance the past five years has been 101, 100, 80, 87 and 105. We saw an uptick last year after changing the format to a one-day event, but the rise was not as significant as we had hoped.

We’re holding a board meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 14 to discuss options moving forward, including whether our members want to continue to see GRIN fund a short-course meters meet, what would be the most appropriate location and what time of year would work best. We also may consider other events to fund, including learn-to-swim efforts and mentoring programs that could grow GRIN. That meeting is open to membership, and we’ll post the location as soon as it’s available.

In the meantime, there are two other short-course meters meets available in the area this fall. The University of Indianapolis hosts an annual event and you can find the entry Miami (Ohio) University will host a meet Nov. 16, and we’ll post the entry as soon as its available.

The Fall Classic had been the annual zone championship for the Great Lakes region of USMS, but in reality drew few out-of-state swimmers, little to no promotion and no financial assistance from the zone. At the annual USMS convention in Anaheim last weekend, the GRIN Board told the zone board that other states were welcome to seek to bid for the right to hold the zone championship. Several other states expressed an interest, but shared GRIN’s concerns about high costs, low attendance and finding an appropriate venue. There was discussion about the zone helping to pay for awards at a future zone championship. It’s possible the zone championship, should it continue, would rotate from state to state.

The Great Lakes zone’s main stated interest lies in moving forward with plans to continue to promote open-water swimming opportunities — an interest GRIN shares. The Big Shoulders 5K swim was a zone championship this year. Ohio Masters will hold the open water zone championship next year in Lake Erie, and Wisconsin was interested in an event in 2015. The NASTI team also will host a 15K national championship at Morse Reservoir in Noblesville in 2015. We’ll update you on those opportunities as information is available.

We also have exciting news to share. The state meet – which along with the Fall Classic is one of two meets annually hosted by GRIN — is on the upswing after a few down years.

Faced with declining attendance in 2011, the board decided to offer the state meet free of charge to GRIN members as a benefit of registration. Attendance had dropped to record lows in recent history, falling to only 172 swimmers in 2011. Participation, though, climbed quickly to 219 in 2012 and hit a record 346 swimmers in 2013. The enthusiasm at the meet was something to see.

By offering the meet free of charge, the board feels participation increased for traditionally non competitive swimmers. In fact, our mile and 1000 races were as popular as the 50 and 100 freestyle events, pushing the timeline for the meet beyond our expectations. We’ve heard feedback from first-time competitors that the meet was fun and inclusive. We’d like to continue to grow this meet as an event that welcomes swimmers of all abilities. We think it’s a great way to introduce members to masters swimming events.

Several clubs within GRIN also continue to offer a mix of swim meets as fundraisers throughout the year, and the GRIN board thanks them for the time and effort it takes to host a good competition. These include clubs based at Ball State, Purdue, IU, Kendallville, Warsaw and Munster.

On Oct. 14, the board also will discuss efforts to reach out to fitness swimmers, to build upon the Swimming Saves Lives initiative that teaches swim lessons to adults, to review the state meet, to update finances, registration and schedule future coaches clinics.

GRIN members also should know the USMS national board has voted to raise registration fees to cover new programming by $2 each over the course of five years, ultimately raising overall annual dues from $51 to $61.

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