2015 Swammy Awards: Age Group Swimmer of the Year – 15-16

Check out all of our 2015 Swammy Awards here.

2015-swammy-awards2015 Honorees: Courtney Harnish and Michael Andrew

It may sound like a broken record, given that Courtney Harnish and Michael Andrew were our picks last year for the 13-14 age group, but no one else established themselves in 2015 in a more all-around fashion in the 15-16 age category than these two swimmers.

15-16 Girls

Courtney Harnish – YMCA of York County, York, Pennsylvania

Harnish continued her steady domination of her peer group throughout 2015. She began with a stellar performance at YMCA National Short Course Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she won every individual event she entered (200/500/1000y free, and 200y fly) and set meet records in the 200y free, 200y back, and 200y fly.

Harnish then went on to represent the USA internationally at the 2015 Pan American Games in July, competing in the 800m free and contributing to Team USA’s gold medal and meet record in the 4x200m free relay, splitting a 1:59.6 for her first time under 2:00 in the long course pool. From there Harnish swam at U.S. Nationals in San Antonio. She went lifetime-bests in the 200/400m free and 100/200m fly, and finished on the podium in the 400 free. Her performance led to an invitation to represent the U.S. National Junior Team at FINA World Cup events in Doha and Dubai.

Harnish is among the top 100 15-16 girls in history in the 200/500/1000/1650y free, 200y back, 200y fly, and 400y IM, as well as the 200/400/800/1500m free, 200m back, 100/200m fly, and 400m IM.

At barely 17 next summer, Harnish will compete to make the U.S. Olympic Team in the 200m free, 400m free, 800m free, 200m back, 100m fly, 200m fly, and 400m IM.

Honorable Mention

In alphabetical order:

Margaret Aroesty – Long Island Aquatic Club (NY): Aroesty had an enormous year in 2015, dropping mind-blowing amounts of time in her best events: nearly 5 seconds in the 100m breast, 7.5 in the 200m breast, 5 in the 200m IM, and just over 16 in the 400m IM. She made 2016 Olympic Trials in all four events. In short course season, Aroesty improved similarly, and is now the seventh-fastest 15-16 100y breaststroker of all-time, just .01 from breaking the 1-minute barrier.

Cassidy Bayer – Nation’s Capital Swim Club (MD): Bayer continued to improve in her best events this year, including the 100 and 200 butterflies, both short course and long course. Bayer represented Team USA at the FINA Junior World Championships, where she just missed the podium in the 100m fly after a field-leading lifetime-best in prelims, and a number two time in semi-finals. Bayer finished at or near the top of her age group in the 100/200y fly, 100/200m fly, 200y IM, and 200/400m IM. She is qualified for 2016 Trials in 100/200m fly and 200/400m IM.

15-16 Boys

Michael Andrew – Indie Swimming, Lawrence, Kansas

Andrew has earned the SOY award for his age group in each of the last three years. We have watched him grow, both physically and as an athlete, and continue to be astounded at the list of his accomplishments. During the 2015 calendar year, Andrew continued his assault on the NAG record books, finishing with the 50y free, 100 breast, 100 fly, and 200 IM in short course yards and the 50 free, 100 breast, and 100 fly in long course meters.

The only professional swimmer in the 15-16 age category, Andrew finished atop the rankings in the 50y free, 50m free, 100y back, 100y breast, 100m breast, 100y fly, 100m fly, 200y IM, and 200m IM. He was second in the 100y free, 100m free, and 100m back, 5th in the 200m breast, and 6th in the 200y fly. He was selected to represent the USA National Junior Team at both the FINA Junior World Championships and FINA World Cup events in Doha and Dubai. He earned Swimmer of the Meet honors at both Junior Worlds and U.S. Summer Juniors.

Although he broke many of these NAG records several times throughout the year, here is where they stand at year-end 2015:

Short Course NAGs:
50y free – 19.24 – 12/19/15
100y breast – 51.75 – 12/18/15
100y fly – 46.23 – 12/11/15
200y IM – 1:42.77 – 12/10/15

Long Course NAGs:
50m free – 22.34 – 8/3/15
100m breast – 1:00.68 – 8/6/15
100m fly – 52.57 – 8/1/15

While he has another four months to continue to etch his name in the books, 2016 is an Olympic year. If Andrew is focused on making the U.S. Team for Rio, he can’t swim every single event at Trials. He showed at Junior Worlds that while he’s got incredible versatility, there is a limit to the number of events he can swim and still race at the top of his game. At Trials it won’t be just age group records he’s racing against; he will be up against the Big Boys. Having turned pro at such a young age, there are already huge expectations of him. It’s hard to remember he will just have turned 17 when he races at his first Olympic Trials in July.

Runner Up

Sean Grieshop – Nitro Swimming, Cedar Park, Texas

Grieshop, too, overshadowed his very successful 2014 with an even better 2015. He punctuated the year with Swimmer of the Meet honors at Winter Juniors West, where he won the 200/500/1650y free, and 400y IM, and was runner-up in the 200y breast and 200y IM. At Summer Nationals, he was 18-and-under champion in the 200m IM and 400m IM, and made the podium in the latter. Grieshop went on to represent Team USA at the FINA Junior World Championships in Singapore, where he won the men’s 400m IM on the very first night.

Grieshop finished the year ranked #1 in the 400 IM in both SCY and LCM. He was also ranked in the top ten of the age group in the 200m free (5), 400m free (2), 800m free (3), 1500m free (3), 1650y free (5), 200m back (10), 200m fly (8), 200y IM (5), and 200m IM (2).

Honorable Mention

In alphabetical order:

  • Matthew Hirschberger – Nation’s Capital Swim Club (MD): Hirschberger established himself as the fastest 15-16 mid-distance freestyler in history when he broke both the 500y and 1000y free records this year. Hirschberger’s 500y free record of 4:16.43 (3/18/15) was just .16 faster than Grieshop’s mark from 2014, but his 1000 time of 8:45.11 (3/17/15) eclipsed Jeff Kostoff’s 1982 mark by nearly 5 seconds. Hirschberger wound up with five more top-ten times: he was #1 in the 400/800m frees, #2 in the 200/1500m frees, and #6 in the 200y free.
  • Reece Whitley – Penn Charter Aquatic Club (PA): Whitley also knocked off a pair of national age group records this year. He and Andrew have spent the better part of the last couple of years trading NAGs in the 100 breast, but the 200 belongs to Whitley. After several iterations, he settled the marks at 1:53.66 in SCY (12/12/15) and at 2:11.30 in LCM (8/10/15). Whitley made finals in all three (50/100/200m) distances of the breaststroke as a member of Team USA at FINA Junior Worlds in Singapore; he finished sixth in the 50, fourth in the 200, and won a silver medal in the 100 with a personal-best 1:01.00. Whitley was only 15 last summer, so he has an entire long course season to lower his own marks in the 200 and to break Andrews’ in the 100. Whitley ended 2015 ranked #1 in both SCY and LCM 200 breasts, #2 in both 100 breasts, and #7 in both 200 IMs.




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bobo gigi
8 years ago

I would have put Reece Whitley as runner up on the boys’ side.

And I can’t believe you forgot the name of Eva Merrell on the girls’ side! My pick for that award.
She’s the current 15/16 US girl with the most potential in my opinion. Clearly a future 100 fly star in the making. She’s now ahead of Cassidy Bayer in that event. At 15 she swam 51.98 last May in yards and especially 58.58 at last US winter nationals in long course! Fastest 15-year-old US girl ever in that event. And 2nd fastest 15/16 US girl ever behind the legend Mary T. Meagher who swam 57.93 in 1981, a world record crushed at that time which has… Read more »

Reply to  bobo gigi
8 years ago

Fair point, but Merrell didn’t even break that 1:00 barrier in the 100 fly until Winter Nationals, which wasn’t until December. Harnish had a full year of top-10 onslaught. I agree that Merrell deserves at least a mention though, 58.5 is a great time that definitely puts her in the conversation as a Trials finalist.

A great debate is whether Cassidy Bayer or Eva Merrell, the 15-16 butterfly queens, has more Olympic potential. I think both have a distinct chance this coming year and very good odds if they continue performing well for Tokyo.

8 years ago

Well deserved award for Andrew.His 50 free is near as fast as Cielo at…nineteen(22.32)!His 100breast is in another league comparing with Adam Peaty at the same age(1:04.01).Peaty only got faster than him at nineteen(59.92)!And his 100 fly and 200IM are very impressive.What a range of events!

8 years ago

Ryan Hoffer is 17&18.

8 years ago

How in the world does Ryan Hoffer not even get in honorable mention?!? His 100 free broke the pool record at UT and would’ve won NCAA’s last year, not to mention it was the second fastest American swim in HISTORY! He also dominated junior’s yet again by winning the 50 free, 100 fly, and 100 back.

Careful Reader
Reply to  Sam
8 years ago

Sam. Next time read the heading of the award. Swimmer of the year for 15 – 16.
Ryan Hoffer is 17 and will obviously be featured when that age group comes up.

Reply to  Sam
8 years ago

Pretty sure Hoffer is 17.

Reply to  Sam
8 years ago

Hi Sam – everything you just mentioned happened when Ryan was 17. Like most swimmers, he had a birthday this year, and generally speaking we only recognize a swimmer in one age group per year, unless they went on a nuts tear and break NAG records in two age groups in the same year.

Reply to  Sam
8 years ago

I’m an idiot my bad whoops I forgot

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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