The award, whose nominees are selected by a panel of coaches from the CSCAA, honors the best female swimmer or diver (though it’s always a swimmer) for the preceding NCAA season.
After battling a hip injury that kept her out of competition for most of the regular season, Manuel made up for lost time in the post-season. She added 6 NCAA titles in her last championship meet, bringing her career total to 14. That included victories in the 50 free (21.18) and 100 free (45.65) that just missed her own all-time bests in those races. She also swam on Stanford’s winning 200 free relay, 400 free relay, 200 medley relay, and 400 medley relay, which included 3 new NCAA Records.
“Although I am the individual receiving this prestigious award, it would not be possible without the support of my family, incredible teammates, amazing coaches, and the outstanding support staff at Stanford, who push and support me every day to be my best, ” Manuel said. “Our team had a historic championship season this year, and there’s no better way to represent all that my team stands for than to cap it off with this award as ‘the best of the best in collegiate athletics.'”
Manuel is the 10th Cardinal to win the award, and this marks the 13th time the award has gone to a Stanford swimmer — which is more than any other school since the honor was first given in the 1976-1977 season. She joins Katie Ledecky (2017), Felicia Lee (2014), Julia Smit (2010), Tara Kirk (2004), Misty Hyman (1998, 2001), Janel Jorgensen (1993), Summer Sanders (1992), Janet Evans (1990), and Jenna Johnson (1986, 1989).
Cal ranks 2nd all-time with 10 wins. Indiana has never won the honor, though Lilly King has been nominated in each of the last 2 seasons (she’s the only Indiana swimmer ever nominated).
Ledecky won the award last year as a freshman after winning 3 individual NCAA event titles (including a tie in the 200 yard free), even though Cal’s Kathleen Baker won the NCAA Championship Swimmer of the Meet award from the CSCAA. The winner is decided after voting by NCAA member institutions, with each school receiving a vote.
As the winner of the swimming-specific award, Manuel now moves forward to contend with the winners of 12 other sports for the Honda Cup, which Ledecky won last year.