2019 CANADIAN FEMALE SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: MAGGIE MACNEIL
A stunningly brilliant 2019 leads Maggie MacNeil to winning the Swammy for Canadian Female Swimmer of the Year, making her the sixth winner in the six-year history of the award.
As a precursor of what lay ahead, MacNeil finished off 2018 strong. The London, Ont., native closed out the summer by winning gold in the 100 butterfly at the Junior Pan Pacs in Fiji and then had a hot start to her collegiate career with Michigan, becoming just the fourth swimmer in history to break 50 seconds in the SCY 100 fly in November.
The now 19-year-old started off this year with a veteran-like performance in her first NCAA Championship, earning All-American status in all seven of her events including an individual runner-up finish in the 100 fly and two more on Wolverine relays. (She also won a pair of individual Big Ten titles prior to NCAAs, going 49.59 in the 100 fly which was her fastest of the season.)
On a quick turnaround, less than two weeks after wrapping NCAAs, MacNeil translated her college breakout successfully over to long course, winning three events at Canadian World Trials in April — including the 100 fly where her time of 57.04 ranked her second in the world behind only world record-holder Sarah Sjostrom.
MacNeil continued to prove her ability to thrive under pressure when she arrived at her first World Championships in July. After anchoring the Canadian women to bronze in the 400 free relay on opening night, she engineered arguably the biggest upset of the meet in the 100 fly final on Day 2.
After qualifying second out of the semis in a time of 56.52, trailing Sjostrom’s 56.29, MacNeil turned fifth at the 50 in the final before roaring home to overtake the great Swede down the stretch and win gold in a time of 55.83. That clocking annihilated Penny Oleksiak‘s Canadian Record of 56.46 and slotted MacNeil into #2 all-time in the event — just 0.35 off of Sjostrom’s world record.
She added a third medal in Gwangju, a bronze, on the Canadian women’s 400 medley relay, and also raced on the fifth-place mixed medley relay.
The former member of the London Aquatic Club has not slowed down in her sophomore year in Ann Arbor, tying the NCAA and U.S. Open Record (AKA fastest swim ever) in the 100-yard fly at the Minnesota Invite in early December. Her clocking of 49.26 makes her the fastest swimmer in the NCAA this season by over half a second, and she also ranks in the top-five in the 100 back (third), 100 free (fourth) and 50 free (fifth).
In no particular order:
- Kylie Masse — Also worthy of the award is Masse, the 2017 winner, who won three medals at the World Championships including a repeat victory in the women’s 100 backstroke. That win made her just the second woman in history to win back-to-back titles in that event (and the first since 1975), and also the first Canadian to claim consecutive golds. The University of Toronto product added an individual bronze in the 200 back and another, alongside MacNeil, in the women’s medley relay. She closed things out as a key contributor for the International Swimming League’s Cali Condors, earning two individual victories in the 200 back in Indianapolis and Naples.
- Taylor Ruck — Ruck, the 2018 winner, fell shy of lofty expectations at Worlds after her stunning performances at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships the summer prior. However, the 19-year-old did win three relay bronzes in Gwangju and had three top-five finishes individually. She also had a standout freshman year with Stanford, placing second at NCAAs in the 200 free and 200 back, third in the 100 back, and added a National title on the Cardinal 800 free relay.
- Sydney Pickrem — After breaking her National Record twice earlier in the year, Pickrem surprised no one when she won bronze in the women’s 200 IM at the World Championships. Later in the meet, however, her bronze in the 200 breaststroke was somewhat unexpected, as was her getting the nod on the breast leg of the medley relay where she added a third bronze to her medal haul (shortly after taking fourth in the 400 IM). The now 22-year-old also closed out her collegiate career at Texas A&M with a bang, placing second in the 200 breast and 400 IM and third in the 200 IM at NCAAs. She finished the year out as a valued asset of the London Roar in the ISL, including resetting the National Record in the SCM 200 IM.