2019 Swammy Awards: Breakout Female Swimmer of the Year Maggie MacNeil

To see all of our 2019 Swammy Awards, click here. 

2019 Breakout Female Swimmer of the Year: Maggie MacNeil, Canada

Maggie MacNeil, courtesy Michigan Athletics

Canadian Maggie MacNeil went from one of the top junior swimmers in the world, to a NCAA All-American, to World champion all in just one year. The teenager showed many successes at the 2018 Junior Pan Pacs, and followed through into her successful collegiate debut. She then transferred her sprint talents and relay viability to Team Canada at the World championships, where she sealed her name in history at the senior international level.

At the 2019 Big Ten Championships, the Michigan Wolverine newcomer picked up 2 individual titles (50 free/100 fly) and 2 relay titles (200/400 FR-R). She then contributed to Michigan’s 3rd place finish at the 2019 Women’s NCAA Championships, picking up All-American honors in all 7 of her events including a 100 fly runner-up finish.

The teen switched gears to the LCM Canadian Swimming Trials in April 2019, where she saw massive time drops. There, MacNeil’s 100 fly lifetime best dropped from 58.38 to 57.04 with her impeccable back-half turnaround. That performance set MacNeil up for a successful senior international debut at the 2019 LC World Championships.

In Gwangju, the young Canadian qualified second into the 100 fly final at 56.52, which seeded her next to defending Olympic champion Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom. In the final, MacNeil bust out her impressive back-half skills and upset Sjostrom for a surprising world title, becoming the 3rd woman in history to break 56 seconds. MacNeil wrapped up her first LC Worlds meet with 2 bronze relay medals in the 400 free relay and 400 medley relay.

MacNeil returned to Michigan for her 2019-20 season campaign not only as a sophomore, but as a NCAA veteran and World champion. At an October intrasquad meet, MacNeil threw down the 4th-fastest SCY 100 fly in history at 49.57. Two months later at the Minnesota Invite, MacNeil tied the 100 fly NCAA/U.S. Open record at 49.26, sealing her name yet again in the history books.

MacNeil is the second Canadian to win this award behind 2017 winner Kylie Masse. MacNeil was also the 2019 Swammy winner for Canadian Female Swimmer of the Year.

Editor’s note: why did we choose MacNeil over Regan Smith, who clearly had a better year of the two thanks to her 3 World Record outburst at the World Championships? Simply put: MacNeil’s breakout ‘amplitude of breakout’ was bigger. To use geographical terms: Smith had a higher peak, but MacNeil had a higher prominence. Smith came into the year as a double World Junior Champion, as a Pan Pacs medalist, and having already raced a World Championship final in 2017. Prior to her freshman year at Michigan, MacNeil was best known internationally as ‘the swimmer who declined a spot at Pan Pacs for a spot at Junior Pan Pacs.’

Honorable Mentions

in no particular order

  • Regan Smith, USA — The 17-year-old Smith qualified for just one event for her second Worlds meet of her career. However, unlike her 2017 meet run where she only finished 8th in the 200 back, Smith walked out as one of the world’s fastest backstrokers in history. During the semifinals of the 200 back, Smith broke Missy Franklin‘s 2012 world record (2:03.35) After confirming the world title in the 200 back, Smith replaced Kathleen Baker for the USA’s 400 medley relay. She then led off the relay with a new 100 back world record (57.57). Just 3 minutes later, Smith along with teammates Lilly KingKelsi Dahlia, and Simone Manuel broke the event world record, making it Smith’s 3rd world record to her name.
  • Ariarne Titmus, Australia — After earning 2 titles at the 2018 SC World championships, the Aussie teen burst out into the long course Gwangju pool to snag 4 LC Worlds medals in July. She started her meet by upsetting American Katie Ledecky in the 400 free. She then picked up 200 free silver and 800 free bronze, along with contributing to the world record-setting 800 free relay. Titmus later joined the ISL’s Cali Condors, where she contributed 2 season wins (400 free), one of which aided in her team’s 3rd-place finish at the ISL finale.
  • Freya Anderson, Great Britain — At the 2019 World Championships, Anderson qualified for her first major individual final in the 100 free, where she placed 8th. Yet Anderson didn’t walk empty-handed, as she contributed to the bronze medal-winning mixed 400 medley relay. At the 2019 European SC Championships, Anderson took the continental title in the 100 free (51.49) and 200 free, setting the British record (1:52.77). She also took home a silver medal as a member of the Commonwealth record-breaking mixed 200 medley relay.

Broken Records Among Nominees

Maggie MacNeil (CAN)

  • 100 Fly: 55.83 — Commonwealth/Americas/Canadian records
  • 400 Free Relay: Sanchez, Ruck, Oleksiak, MacNeil, 3:31.78 — Canadian record
  • 400 Medley Relay: Masse, Pickrem, MacNeil, Olekisak, 3:53.58 — Canadian record

Regan Smith (USA)

  • 100 Back: 57.57 — World/Americas/American records
  • 200 Back: 2:03.35 — World/Americas/American records
  • 400 Medley Relay: Smith, King, Dahlia, Manuel, 3:50.40 — World/Americas/American records

Ariarne Titmus (AUS)

  • 200 Free: 1:54.27 — Commonwealth/Oceania/Australian records
  • 400 Free: 3:58.76 — Commonwealth/Oceania/Australian records
  • 800 Free: 8:15.70 — Oceania/Australian records
  • 800 Free Relay: Titmus, Wilson, Throssell, McKeon, 7:41.50 — World/Commonwealth/Oceania/Australian records

Freya Anderson (GBR)

  • 200 Free (SCM): Freya Anderson (GBR), 1:52.77 — British record
  • 200 Free Relay (SCM): Hopkin, O’Connor, Davies, Anderson, 1:36.18 — British record
  • 200 Medley Relay (SCM): Davies, O’Connor, Anderson, Hopkin, 1:45.65 — British record
  • Mixed 200 Free Relay (SCM): Scott, McLay, Hopkin, Anderson, 1:28.64 — Commonwealth/British record

Past Winners

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Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

Tough call, but there was only one swimmer on the list who created a WTF moment (two, actually) and that was Regan Smith. Maybe there should be a Swammy for WTF moments.

1 year ago

So what more could Regan Smith have done? I get that there are many deserving nominees but sheesh I mean 3 world records sounds tough to top for this award

1 year ago

I understand your logic but still think Smith should have won. MacNeil held herself back from Worlds in 2017 or Pan Pacs in 2018 so hard to say her curve was steeper. And world records are world records especially when you do them on the biggest stage! Agree to disagree!

Reply to  Superfan
1 year ago

She still participated at Junior Pan Pacs in 2018, so while it may not have been a senior competition, she still got international racing experience that summer

Reply to  Superfan
1 year ago

Macneil didn’t qualify for worlds or jr worlds in 2017. So even more an absurd trajectory

Reply to  Superfan
1 year ago

I wont agree to disagree

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

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