Maggie named finalist for 2020 Honda Sport Award

Andrew Craven

by Anne Lepesant SWIM SWAM News, April 2nd

Chris Voelz, Executive Director of THE Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) announced today that Tennessee’s Erika Brown, Michigan’s Maggie MacNeil, Wisconsin’s Beata Nelson, and Cal’s Abbey Weitzeil have been named the four finalists for the Class of 2020 Honda Sport Award for Swimming & Diving. The award honors the best female swimmer or diver of the preceding NCAA season, and the nominees are chosen by a panel of coaches from the CSCAA.

The winner will move on to 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. Missy Franklin won in 2015, and then former Stanford teammates Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel went back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.

The cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, due to the coronavirus pandemic, affected the nomination process for this year’s Honda Sport Award. The CWSA explained in its press release:

“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.”

The CWSA added it “will be announcing the winter honorees, the 2020 Inspiration Award finalists and winner and will announce the status of the 2020 event as those details become clearer.”

Accomplishments of this year’s nominees:

Erika Brown, University of Tennessee – A senior from Charlotte, North Carolina, Brown is the reigning SEC Female Swimmer of the Year and was twice named the SEC Swimmer of the Meet at the last two conference championships. She led Tennessee to its first-ever SEC Championship title in 2020 going three-for-three winning the 50 and 100 free and the 100 fly. She is the only woman in SEC history to go three-for-three in the same events three consecutive years. Brown became the 2nd fastest performer ever in the 50 free and 100 free and broke the American record in the 100 fly. She closes her SEC Championship career with 18 gold medals and 23 total medals. She is also a two-time SEC Commissioner’s Trophy winner.
Maggie MacNeil, University of Michigan – A sophomore from London, Ontario, Canada, is a 10-time Big Ten Champion and two-time All-Big Ten honoree. She was named the 2020 Big Ten Swimmer of the Year and is a seven-time CSCAA All-American. She tied the NCAA and U.S. Open record (49.26) in the 100-yard fly and received an invite to the 2020 NCAA Championship for the 50 free, 100 free and 100 fly before the Championships were canceled. MacNeil became the world champion in the 100 fly last July and helped Canada to bronze medals on two relay teams.
Beata Nelson, University of Wisconsin – A senior who hails from Madison, Wisconsin, Nelson is a two-time Honda Sport Award finalist for swimming & diving and the reigning CSCAA Women’s Swimmer of the Year. The seven-time CSCAA All-American holds the collegiate, U.S. Open and American record in the 100 back and is the only woman to break 50 seconds in the 100 back this season. She also holds the NCAA record in the 200 back. Nelson is an AAU Sullivan Award semifinalist, given to the nation’s top amateur athlete, and the reigning Big Ten Swimmer of the Year.
Abbey Weitzeil, University of California, Berkeley – The Saugus, California native is also a two-time Honda Sport Award finalist. She set the American and U.S. Open record in the 50 free (20.90), becoming the first woman in history to break the 21-second barrier. A senior, she has earned 17 CSCAA All-America honors. She captured a silver medal at the 2019 World Championships as part of the U.S. 400m free relay that set an American record. Weitzeil 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.