The York YMCA Swimming Club has earned a well-deserved reputation for producing its fair share of world-class athletes.
The most notable York YMCA alum, of course, is Spring Grove’s Hali Flickinger, who earned a seventh-place finish in the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 200 butterfly. Flickinger’s swimming career is still going strong and another Olympic berth in 2020 is certainly possible, if not probable.
The York club’s reputation will likely get burnished over the next two weekends when the NCAA Division I Swimming Championships are held in Austin, Texas. The women’s event runs March 20-23, while the men’s event takes place March 27-30.
Several swimmers with York YMCA ties figure to earn All-America recognition at the most elite college competition in the nation. In fact, it would be a surprise if the local swimmers didn’t win at least one NCAA championship, possibly more.
There’s little doubt that the York County swimming community will pay close attention over the coming days as the NCAA results come pouring in.
Coleman Stewart: Chief among the local NCAA contenders appears to be York Suburban High School graduate Coleman Stewart.
The North Carolina State junior is already a two-time NCAA champion, winning the 100 backstroke and swimming a leg on the Wolfpack’s championship 400 freestyle relay in 2018. He’s also an eight-time All-American.
Stewart is coming off a standout performance at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, where he was named the meet’s co-Most Valuable Swimmer for the Wolfpack. At the ACC meet, he racked up two individual titles (100 backstroke, 200 backstroke) and was part of two relay titles (400 medley, 200 medley).
He led off the 400 medley relay with a time of 44.36 seconds in the 100 backstroke, breaking his own ACC record in the event. It’s also the fastest time in the nation this season, setting him up as the No. 1 seed in the event at the NCAA meet.
Meghan Small: On the women’s side, three local swimmers figure to make some waves, with all three competing for Southeastern Conference powerhouses.
Former York YMCA standout Meghan Small is the No. 1 seed in the 200 individual medley (1:51.62) after winning gold in that event recently at the SEC Championships. She placed fifth in that event at the 2018 NCAA meet.
The Tennessee junior graduated from Manchester Valley High School and is from Lineboro, Maryland, just below the Mason-Dixon Line.
The four-time All-American is also seeded No. 10 in the 200 free after winning silver in that event at the SEC meet.
Courtney Harnish: Former West York High School standout Courtney Harnish is now excelling for the University of Georgia.
The Bulldogs’ sophomore is seeded in the top 15 in three different NCAA events, capped by her No. 3 seeding in the 500 free (4:35.52). She won gold in that event at the SEC meet and finished 10th in the same event at the NCAA meet as a freshman.
The two-time All-American is also seeded No. 12 in the 200 free and No. 14 in the 200 fly in the NCAA meet. She won bronze in the 200 free at the SEC meet.
Leah Braswell: Manchester’s Leah Braswell has made a big splash during her freshman season for the University of Florida.
That’s not surprising, since she was considered the No. 1 high school swimming recruit in Pennsylvania last season.
Braswell won the SEC gold medal in the 1,650 freestyle and is the No. 6 seed in that event at the NCAA meet (15:53.54). She also captured an SEC silver in the 500 free, finishing just behind Harnish. She’s the No. 7 seed in that event for the NCAA meet (4:36.81).
Given those impressive resumes, the area quartet figures to return from Texas loaded down with All-America honors. Any swimmer finishing in the top eight is considered a first-team All-American. Those finishing ninth through 16th are considered honorable-mention All-Americans.
If the seeds hold up, Stewart and Small could even bring back national championships to York County.
No matter what happens, however, one thing is certain: The York County swimming community will be watching closely and cheering loudly.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.