Cal senior Abbey Weitzeil is the winner of the 2020 Honda Sport Award for swimming, executive director of The Collegiate Women Sports Awards Chris Voelz announced Tuesday.
Tennessee’s Erika Brown, Michigan’s Maggie MacNeil, Wisconsin’s Beata Nelson were the other three finalists for the award, which honors the best female swimmer or diver of the preceding NCAA season. The nominees are chosen by a panel of coaches from the CSCAA.
Weitzeil set the American and U.S. Open record in the 50 free (20.90) in December, becoming the first woman in history to break the 21-second barrier. She set a Pac-12 meet record in winning the 50 free in 21.03 before injuring her arm and missing the rest of the 2020 meet, but was set to compete in the 2020 NCAA Championships before its cancellation. The Saugus, CA native captured a silver medal at the 2019 World Championships as part of the U.S. 400m free relay that set an American record.
“I am so incredibly honored to be the recipient of the Honda Sport Award for swimming this year,” Weitzeil said in a Cal press release. “It is so special to have my name next to the other Cal swimmers that have won in the past. They are a major part of Cal’s history and legacy, and to be able to add my name to that list and represent Cal this year is amazing. This would not have been possible without my coaches, teammates, staff and support system that all helped me through this last year, and so I send a huge thank you to all of them, as well. Go Bears!”
Weitzeil had previously been a finalist for this award and is the sixth Cal swimmer to win. The others are Mary T. Meagher (1985, 1987), Natalie Coughlin (2002, 2003), Dana Vollmer (2009), Caitlin Leverenz (2012) and Missy Franklin (2015).
She will now contend with the winners of the 11 other sports for Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and the Honda Cup, which has been won by a swimmer in three of the last five years. Franklin won in 2015 and former Stanford teammates Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel went back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.
“The Honda Award is the premier honor available for female collegiate student-athletes, and I’m thrilled for Abbey that she is this year’s recipient for swimming,” Cal head coach Teri McKeever said. “She had an outstanding season and seemed to set a record almost every time she raced, highlighted by her American record in the 50 free this past December. As one of our co-captains, Abbey was also a terrific leader in and out of the pool, and I expect we’ll see even more from her in the years ahead.”
The award nomination process was affected by the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships due to the coronavirus pandemic
The CWSA explained in its announcing the finalists last week:
“As is our protocol, the swimming & diving finalists were selected by a panel of coaches and experts from the Collegiate Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America (CSAA) [sic], however, given the unprecedented cancellation of championships the panel relied mostly on cumulative rankings and scoring. The Honda Sport award winner for swimming & diving will be announced next week after voting by administrators from over 1,000 NCAA member schools. Each NCAA member institution has a vote.”