The Official SwimSwam Ballot for the 2019 Golden Goggles Awards

Braden Keith
by Braden Keith 17

September 30th, 2019 News

The official nominations and details for the 2019 USA Swimming Golden Goggles Awards gala have been announced, and so its time for us to present our official SwimSwam ballot.

Note that these votes are based on who we think should win, not he we think will win. This year, however, is more straightforward than most, with the exception of the Female Swimmer of the Year and maybe a few minor quibbles in other categories.

Make your official votes for the 2019 awards here (scroll down to the end of the page).

2019 Golden Goggle Awards Nominees

Breakout Performer of the Year

With increased media coverage, it’s harder and harder to define the term “breakout,” because Regan Smith has been on this trajectory for years. Still, she broke 2 World Records in individual events and another as part of a relay on her first World Championship team. Can’t ignore those numbers.

Jay Litherland‘s silver in the 400 IM was a nice story that might earn a bigger vote in other years, while Hali Flickinger was faster in her best event, the 200 fly, last year.

Perseverance Award

In the classical sense of “perseverance,” Ashley Twichell certainly is that. She’s been grinding and grinding to make the transition from the pool to open water, and at age 30 this year earned her spot on the Olympic team.

But, she’s up against two monster perseverance stories. Katie Ledecky was very ill (details are still hazy, but she was sick enough to skip a race), but still came back to win a gold in the 800 free. Nathan Adrian, meanwhile, had cancer in the early part of the season, and while he didn’t come away with the same individual medals haul as did Ledecky, he was a very important leg on the American relays, including their Championship Record 400 free relay. He also pulled double duty with the Pan American Games.

So, which takes the cake – Ledecky’s singular point of perseverance to the highest height? Or Adrian’s season-long perseverance and fight to get back into world class shape after a life-altering diagnosis?

We’ll take Adrian here. Mr. Reliable got it done again.

Coach of the Year

This debate, to me, comes down to 3 coaches: Meehan (Stanford), Parratto (Riptide), and Troy (Gator Swim Club). Then the conversation essentially boils down to 3 questions:

  1. How much value do you give to a singular superstar versus success by a number of swimmers?
  2. How many style points does Parratto get given the crushing of World Records done by Regan Smith at only 17?
  3. How many style points does Gregg Troy get for coaching the one swimmer involved in all of the American mens’ gold medals?

To me, Meehan has the right combo of results. Ledecky and what she did, plus Simone and her raw medal haul, and Katie Drabot grabbing a bronze medal in the 200 fly. While not really what USA Swimming is focused on, he’s also the only nominee on the list to have won the NCAA team title in 2019.

The only knock is that a few swimmers (Ella Eastin) were off their bests at Worlds. But, I’d rather focus my pick on the highs rather than the lows.

Bauerle is kind of a darkhorse pick here, as among the nominees his group had the most co-ed success at Worlds. Between Smoliga’s 2 medals (including 50 back gold), Flickinger’s 200 fly silver (and a great season overall), and Jay Litherland‘s 400 IM silver, Bauerle’s pros stepped up when needed. His college teams didn’t have a great year, but his post-grads put together a very good season.

Relay Performance of the Year

  • Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay (2019 FINA World Championships)
  • Mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay (2019 FINA World Championships)
  • Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay (2019 FINA World Championships)

Mixed relay World Records just aren’t that cool. The men’s 400 free relay got a lot of early meet hype. But this one’s pretty easy to me: the women’s 400 medley, led off by Regan Smith‘s World Record, had it all. Capstone on the meet, 2 World Records, and utter dominance over a very good Australian team. The US had the fastest split on three legs of the medley relay in a World Championship final. The other leg, Kelsi Dahlia’s butterfly, was 2nd-best in the final.

Female Race of the Year

  • Simone Manuel – 100m Freestyle (2019 FINA World Championships)
  • Katie Ledecky – 800m Freestyle (2019 FINA World Championships)
  • Olivia Smoliga – 50m Backstroke (2019 FINA World Championships)
  • Regan Smith – 200m Backstroke semifinals (2019 FINA World Championships) (SwimSwam Official Selection)
  • Lilly King – 100m Breaststroke (2019 FINA World Championships)

Race of the year? Lots of good stories, but taking 7-tenths off Missy Franklin’s 7-year old World Record in the 200 back seals this for Regan. If it was in the final and not the semi-final, then I think it’s a slam dunk. Looking less at clocks and more existentially, Simone pulling another (upset?) in the 100 free was super cool. So if you don’t like awarding a semis swim, that’s the 2nd-best option.

Male Race of the Year 

  • Caeleb Dressel – 50m Freestyle (2019 FINA World Championships)
  • Caeleb Dressel – 100m Freestyle (2019 FINA World Championships) (SwimSwam Official Selection)
  • Caeleb Dressel – 50m Butterfly (2019 FINA World Championships)
  • Caeleb Dressel – 100m Butterfly semifinals (2019 FINA World Championships)
  • Jay Litherland – 400m IM (2019 FINA World Championships)

With deference to Jay Litherland, which again I think is one of the more underrated stories to come out of Worlds for a US men’s team that is looking for positive signs heading into Tokyo, this award will be Dressel’s. Which race? They were all good wins. It won’t be the 50 fly. I think the 100 free, going 46.96 and sub-47, is the choice here. No, it wasn’t a World Record, but it was in the final, and it was a history-making time none-the-less. I know that’s the opposite logic to the 200 back choice above. Don’t hold me accountable for that in the comments. The 100 fly will probably win this one anyway.

Female Athlete of the Year 

I hear you. Regan Smith came on late at the World Championships and had one heck of a performance over a couple of days. But, when you’re on the American swim team, the glory has always gone to the swimmer who does it for the entire length of a grueling meet. The only hesitation I have is that I hate when Mel’s obviously pro-American choices actually come true,  because it encourages him to do it again. And Simone won again. Because she’s an absolute juggernaut when the lights turn on. At this point, how can you pick against her?

Male Athlete of the Year 

  • Caeleb Dressel (SwimSwam Official Selection)

Our pick: Zach Apple, for his 2 individual golds at the World University Games and some good relay swims at Worlds.

JK. It’s Caeleb.

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PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
1 year ago

Maggie MacNeil is sad that her leg in the 400 medley relay at worlds doesn’t count 🙁

1 year ago

Even though Dressel’s 100 free would have been a WR if it wasnt for the super suit, Im pretty sure they are going to have Dressel breaking MP’s WR as the MROTY.

Also, I find it funny how Dressel went in to college as his best events being 50 free, 100 free, and 100 fly in that order, but now it seems it is in reverse based off the WR.

Chaitha D.
Reply to  DBSwims
1 year ago

I would still say that Dressel is better at the 50 than the 100 free.

Reply to  Chaitha D.
1 year ago

I don’t think so…22.29/24.67 is pretty incredible. He’s closer to the suites record in the 100 than he is the 50.

1 year ago

Agree with most but picking Troy for Coach of the year and KL’s 800 for Female Race of the year. Troy’s ability to bring the best out of Dressel really deserve more recognition, plus I thought NCAA doesn’t count here (comment from the other GG article).
KL’s 800 kept everyone on edge for the whole race. Seriously, WR is awesome but I could watch that 800 again and again.

Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

haha, good point

1 year ago

I feel that Smith should dethrone Ledecky as Female athlete of the year, and Greg Meehan after winning the NCAA 3X in a row and coaching the World Championship team (and both Ledecky and Manual) earned Coach of the Year again. Adrian should be a slam dunk for Perseverance Award for the way he handled his illness and comeback.

Lane 8
1 year ago

I was initially thinking Lazor should be nominated for Breakout Performer. I would agree with SwimSwam for all of the picks. If relay splits counted, I might nominate Zach Apple’s 46 split on the free relay. And why only swims at Worlds? Maybe Held’s US Open record should be nominated too. Whatever, these would probably not win. Weird to do just Dressel for the Male Athlete of the Year…

1 year ago

I don’t know what category of Golden goggles award system it fits most but nothing surprised me more this season than W4x200 relay by beating 10 years old high-tech suits world record. All other great results were expected to some degree. Even two phenomenal races of Regan Smith that killed the competition in backstroke events and that are of Janet Evans’ magnitude were not surprise. Yes, I was shocked to see this happening in prelim race making great record of great Missy to look pedestrian. But if I expected this to happen it would be from Regan Smith – nobody else.
I can guarantee that nobody in the world expected from those “200FR specialists” who had ranking #16, #17… Read more »

Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

Sorry for not being clear but I’m surprised you didn’t get it. I was talking about achievement of American swimmers Melanie Margalis(27), Katie McLaughlin(22) and Simone Manuel(23). Last season I couldn’t even imagine that American 800 relay will look this way. And wouldn’t even talk to a person who could suggest that these girls who at best deserved a morning race are capable to be under 7:40 beating 10 years old rubber suit record. 7:39.87 is outstanding result. Nor Schmitt, nor Franklin, nor Vollmer, nor any other American aces at this distance but Ledecky couldn’t make a relay of that power. Look at these names one more time. Nobody believed that they were capable to compete with Australians at World… Read more »

Reply to  Yozhik
1 year ago

That is how people don’t really care about this achievement of USA W4x200 relay completely unexpected and exceptional performance. Times shown in my post were incorrect. The previous world record that was set in 2009 by Chinese team was 7:42.08, but not 7:40. And American team made it in 7:41.37.
Who cares, indeed.

Bobo Gigi
1 year ago

I think they should create a female and male performance award for the best swims in terms of times.
And I would have picked Regan Smith’s 100 back world record and Caeleb Dressel’s 100 fly world record.
Race of the year is different. It doesn’t mean necessarily the best performance in terms of times. It can also mean either a big upset or a win after a very close race until the end…. And in my opinion it must take place in final.

My picks

Breakout performer of the year: REGAN SMITH

Perseverance award of the year: NATHAN ADRIAN

Coach of the year: MIKE PARROTTO

Relay performance of the year: WOMEN’S 4X100 MEDLEY RELAY

Female race of the… Read more »

Reply to  Bobo Gigi
1 year ago

Simone Manuel’s “in lane 1” has very simple explanation. She had a double day before: 100free semi-final and 4×200 final. Swimming 53.31 (the first race of the session) for the eighths spot in final race was extremely risky. #9 was Kromowidjojo with 53.43. Manuel could easily miss the opportunity to show us 52.04 next day.
At the end it happened to be a silver lining since Cate Campbell was focusing exclusively on racing Sarah Sjostrom and based on her reaction had no clue what Manuel did far away in lane 1.

Reply to  Bobo Gigi
1 year ago

I can’t disagree more with you. Regan breaks a world record by a mile in incredible fashion but Simone takes Race of the Year because she did it out of lane 1? Smith broke the world record in semi’s, yes. But her finals Swim was equally impressive. Out in a stunning 59.4 and 8 tenths ahead of HER world record pace at the 150. “Died” coming home but still went 2:03 and was ahead of Missy’s former record. That was a statement race going out 59.4. She wanted the medley leadoff and earned it. Then delivered in the relay. Her relay 100 Back world record also beats Simone’s lane 1 100 Free Swim. It’s not even close. Smith had three… Read more »

1 year ago

The article makes a very strong case for Bauerle as Coach of the year, then calls him dark horse. He should be the #1 pick. has multiple swimmers deliver superb performances at Worlds. That’s gettin’ it done. People seem to be overlooking what great meet Smoliga had because of Smith’s insane performance.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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