York County well-represented at Olympic swimming trials

Patrick Strohecker
  • 10 swimmers with ties to York YMCA or York County will compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
  • West York senior Courtney Harnish will compete in seven events, tied for most among York swimmers.
  • Spring Grove grad and University of Georgia's Hali Flickinger enters with fourth-fastest time in 200 butterfly.

Nearly 1,200 miles separate York and the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

West York senior Courtney Harnish won the PIAA Class 2-A 200 freestyle on Thursday by nearly six seconds.

But, for the next week, the city that rests on the Nebraska-Iowa border might as well be the epicenter for York County athletes and supporters.

Beginning on Sunday and running through July 3, Omaha will host the U.S. Olympic Team Trials event, where thousands of swimmers from all across the country will compete to make the Team USA squad that will head to the Rio Olympics in August. Among those competing are eight former and current swimmers with ties to the prestigious York YMCA swimming program and one from York College, hoping to fulfill the ultimate dream of representing the country at the Olympics.

Among the nine swimmers with local connections competing for a spot on the Olympic team are five high schoolers and four collegiate swimmers. Among the high school swimmers, three are local products that all swim for the York YMCA — West York High School senior Courtney Harnish, Manchester's Leah Braswell and recent Dallastown graduate and Alabama commit Kacey Oberlander. Recent York Suburban grad and NC State commit Coleman Stewart, who swims at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club is the only high school boy competing from York County. Also among them is Lineboro, Maryland-native Meghan Small, who's made the 35-40-minute commute north to the club since she was 12. Small recently graduated high school and will swim at Tennessee next year.

In the college ranks are former York YMCA products who are representing their college programs at the Olympic trials. Most notably is Spring Grove grad Hali Flickinger, who just completed her senior year swimming for the University of Georgia. She's joined by Delone Catholic grad and current Bowling Green State University swimmer, Victoria Griffin, current University of Kentucky swimmer and former Dallastown grad, Brandon Flynn, and California-native and York College standout, Kyle Walthall.

High school swimmers: For Oberlander, this will be the second time she competes in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, also taking part as a 14 year old back in 2012. This year, she'll swim in two events, the 100 meter back and 200 meter back events, where she enters with the 136th-best time in the 100 back and 41st-best time in the 200 back.

Recent Dallastown grad and Alabama commit Kacey Oberlander will compete in the 100- and 200-meter backstrokes at this week's U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.

For Harnish and Small, ever since they qualified for the national team last year and competed in the PanAm Games in Toronto last summer, they've been building toward this moment. So, it comes as no surprise that they not only enter the team trials competing in the most events, but also with some of the best chances to qualify for the Olympics out of any of the York County swimmers.

Harnish, who's just 17 years old, will compete in seven events — the 200-meter free, 400 free (11th), 800 free (13th), 200 back, 100 butterfly, 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley. While she ranks in the middle or lower part of the pack in most of the seven categories, as a strong distance swimmer, her best opportunities to qualify come in the 400 and 800 free events, where she enters with the 11th and 13th fastest seed times.

As for Small, she'll swim in six events, the 100-meter back, 200 backstroke, 200 breaststroke, 100 butterfly, 200 individual medley and 400 IM. Billed as a swimmer that isn't great in one stroke, but equally strong in all four by York YMCA coach Michael Brooks, Small will go into the week with her best shot of making the Olympic team in the 200 IM, where she has the sixth-fastest qualifying time.

York YMCA's Harnish, Small set to make splash on international swim scene

Braswell, who is home-schooled and lives within the Northeastern school district, will be competing in the 800 free, where she enters as the 81st-fastest seed.

Stewart, meanwhile, will compete in the 100- and 200-meter back events, but ranks 85th in the 200 back and 203rd in the 100.

College swimmers: Onto the local college swimmers, Flickinger is not only the most decorated, but might be the best overall shot at a local product heading to Rio.

The national champion from Georgia will take part in seven events — 200-meter free, 400 free, 200 back, 100 butterfly, 200 butterfly, 200 individual medley and 400 IM. Flickinger ranks in the top-14 in six of her seven events, but will go into the 200 butterfly with the fourth-fastest seed time, by far the best position of any of the York County swimmers.

Hali Flickinger, left, was part of the 4x200 free relay national championship team this year in Georgia, along with teammates Kylie Stewart, second from left, Meaghan Raab, third from left, and Brittany MacLean.

Griffin will swim in just one event, the 50 free, where she goes into Omaha seeded at 107.

For the men, Flynn will compete in four events, the 400-meter free, 1,500 free, 200 breast and 400 individual medley, but didn't qualify better than 25th in any event. Lastly is the Spartans' Walthall, who qualified in the 100-meter breaststroke at a qualifying event in Greensboro, North Carolina. He'll go into the Team Trials ranked 91st out of 147 swimmers in that event.

Who qualifies: Even though swimmers like Harnish, Small and Flickinger are seeded in the top-10 in several events, it's still incredibly difficult to qualify for the Olympics from their positions.

BLOG: Spring Grove's Hali Flickinger a national champ

Consider that only the top-two swimmers in each event and top-six in the 100 and 200 freestyle events for relay purposes make the Olympic team, each will need to drastically improve on their qualifying times in order to see their Olympic dreams come true.

Viewing: All preliminary events will be taped and later broadcast on NBC Sports Network, while the finals will air on NBC. Fans can also watch online at

Sunday's results: Flickinger became the first York County swimmer to make it into the final round of an event this week.

After qualifying for Sunday night's semifinal swim in the 100-meter butterfly, Flickinger advanced to Monday night's finals with a time of 58.81. Her time earned her the eighth and final spot in the final, beating out the No. 9 swimmer by .07 seconds.

Harnish and Small both failed to qualify for the semifinals in their first swims of the week-long event. Harnish finished with the 95th-fastest time in the 100 fly with a time of 1:01.52. She beat her qualifying seed of 110. Small finished 49th in the 400 IM with a time of 4:54.05.

Walthall finished 127th in the 100-meter breast with a time of 1:04.93, more than a second slower than his qualifying time.

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at