First, what All Star times are NOT--they are not qualifying times. Parents and swimmers familiar with USA Swimming know about qualifying times--those are times a swimmer tries to achieve to go to a particular meet. For example, if a 10-year-old boy swims the 100 Fly in 1:35.19 or faster in a short course yard pool or in 1:47.59 or faster in a long course meter pool, he has achieved the qualifying time in that event for the 2008 PVS 14 and Under Junior Olympic Championship meet. (Those qualifying times are listed here.) As long as he wants to go to the meet, his team enters him and he swims.
All Star times don't work that way. They are NOMINATING, not qualifying, times. If a 10-year-old boy swims an 18.70 during one of our "A" meets (including divisionals), he has achieved an All Star time in the 9-10 25 meter fly and should be very happy. He is one fast kid. However, unless he is one of the sixteen fastest boys in that event--after all the scratches and other variables are taken into account--he probably won't be swimming in All Stars.
Unlike USA Swimming championship meets, All Stars has only two heats, so only sixteen kids can get in the water. Our automation team sets All Star times based on what our fastest times have been historically. They pick times that should give us enough swimmers to fill the lanes at the meet. Every so often they adjust the times, making them faster if the old All Star times were producing too many nominated swimmers or, occasionally, making them slower if not enough names were popping up.
This is a year that many of the times were adjusted downward--our kids are just getting too fast!