When the decision to ban high-tech swimsuits was handed down by the National Federation of State High School Associations on Tuesday, Central Kitsap swim coach Steve Lehaie couldn’t have been more pleased.
“Thank God! It’s a blessing,” Lehaie said on Wednesday. “I saw some pretty horrendous swims at state that the kids come out of absolutely nowhere (and drop) many seconds in an event. I thought it was pretty bad to allow them.”
The federation’s board of directors agreed with its swimming and diving rules committee to ban the suits for high school competition — effective immediately. Practice begins Aug. 24 for the upcoming girls swim season.
The federation is following in FINA’s, the governing body of the sport, footsteps in banning the much-ballyhooed and very controversial full-length suits. The suits were the talk of last months World Championships in Rome and have been the topic of discussion at most meets since the 2008 Olympics.
The ban does allow swimmers to have one swimsuit made of a woven/knit textile material that’s permeable to water and air. It cannot aid in buoyancy, or have zippers or other fastening systems.
Suits for males can’t extend beyond the waist or below the top of the knee. For females, suits can’t extend beyond the shoulders or below the top of the knee.
Lehaie said the suits, which average around $300 to $500, make a huge difference, just in buoyancy alone.
“They’re on top of the water, regardless,” he said, adding he didn’t see that many suits worn by high school swimmers during the season, but knows the impact the suits did have on times from one meet to the next. “We’re talking several hundredths of a second versus several seconds.”
More than anything, Lehaie was glad to see a balance brought back to prep swimming, regardless of public, private or classification level.
“It really levels the playing fields a lot more,” he said. “It’s going to be nice that they put a limitation on it.”