Spring Grove welcomes home Olympic swimmer Hali Flickinger
Residents lined Main Street in downtown Spring Grove this Labor Day to honor hometown hero and Olympic swimmer Hali Flickinger as she rode past seated atop the the rear of yellow convertible Chevy Corvette in the town's holiday parade.
Long before Flickinger placed seventh in the women's 200-meter butterfly at the 2016 Summer Olypmics in Rio, she was Hali from Spring Grove.
Today she is an Olympic swimmer, an inspiration to her community and, on Monday, grand marshal of her own parade.
Organizer John McLucas said a number of community organizations came together to plan and to pull off Monday's parade, which snaked down Main Street and worked its way to Spring Grove Borough Park.
"We are here to celebrate Hali, our local Olympian. We’re here to show her what she means to this town and how proud we are of her," McLucas said.
He spoke on behalf of a whole community who turned out to stand, wave and cheer as Flickinger passed by.
"Very inspiring. I think you might see a new generation of swimmers in this town after this," he said.
Proud father: Hali's dad, Doug, in addition to celebrating his daughter with the rest of Spring Grove, got to drive the Corvette she was riding in. He said the whole experience has been great for him and his wife, Lea, Hali's mom, and for Hali as well.
But it was in Omaha and not Rio, during qualifying rather than in actual Olympic competition, that Doug captured in his memory a moment along Hali's journey that he said he will always remember.
“The second she hit the wall and knew she was an Olympian. That’s something I will never forget,” Doug said.
In her own words: For Hali, a graduate of Spring Grove Area High School who swam at the YMCA of York and York County, competing in Rio was as much about preparation as anything else, she said. But her real joy came from spending time with her teammates just hanging out, talking and enjoying the experience together.
"I was surrounded by great leaders, great people. Just being able to talk, spend some time together, watch TV," she said.
And when she returned home, after two years of strict training regimens and diets — she has not had a french fry in two years, she said — Hali wanted one thing: Handel's ice cream.
The Flickingers hit Handel's Homemade Ice Cream and Yogurt for a couple of scoops of Hali's favorite flavor, cotton candy confetti.
Sweets and celebrations aside, Hali remains humble and energetic. She said she is aware of the impact her journey has had on her hometown community, specifically on the youngsters whose dreams are still as big as their eyes get when they visit Handel's.
Inspiration: Hali said she encourages anyone with a dream to go after it, to expect adversity and to work to overcome it.
"You just have to stick with it. I have been knocked down many times by people who did not believe in what I did, but I believed in myself," she said. "You only need a few people who are going to be by your side the whole way through, and if you really want something, just go for it."
She thanked everyone who has surrounded her from the very beginning.
"Of course my family, No. 1, been there from the very beginning. Mom, dad, brother, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, my husband," she said.
She thanked her cat, Princess, lastly, for all the emotional support.
A community moved: Sgt. Jamie Stalcup of the Southwestern Regional Police Department was more than happy to help provide traffic control for Monday's parade, he said. Hali's accomplishments brought Spring Grove residents together for community-watch parties during her competition in Rio, but Stalcup said the department hadn't known what to expect as far as the parade.
"Good support, good support. We didn’t know what to anticipate," he said, referring to the turnout.
Spring Grove honors Olympic athlete Hali Flickinger on Monday, Sept. 5, 2016.
"I think the swimming program might need to build another pool, right," Stalcup joked.
"Very inspirational, (this is a) small town, but you can always dream big," he added.
Spring Grove resident Sarah Lehman brought her two children, Michael and Addie, out to Main Street to see Hali ride by Monday.
Michael, in sixth grade, and Addie, in third grade, both play soccer and look to Hali as an inspiration, Lehman said. She said they came out to see Hali because of her hard work, her dedication and her representation of Spring Grove.
"We are Spring Grove Rockets, and we’re Spring Grove residents, and we are proud of all that Spring Grove has to offer, especially Hali," she said.
Addie, who said she had fun watching Hali swim and liked her because she "worked really hard," believes her dreams can also come true if she works hard and doesn't give up.
So what does Addie want to be when she grows up?
— Reach John Joyce at email@example.com or on Twitter @JohnJoyceYD.