Spring Grove's Flickinger makes 200 butterfly finals
- Hali Flickinger finished fourth in her 200-meter butterfly semifinal heat on Tuesday night.
- Her semifinal time of 2:07.02 was sixth fastest among the semifinal swimmers.
- Flickinger will swim for Olympic gold on Wednesday night.
Spring Grove High School graduate Hali Flickinger will swim for Olympic gold on Wednesday night.
Flickinger finished in fourth place in the second 200-meter butterfly semifinal on Tuesday night with a time of 2 minutes, 7.02 seconds. That still qualified her for Wednesday night’s final as the sixth-fastest time out of the 16-swimmer semifinal field. The top eight times made it to the final.
Flickinger, who graduated from Spring Grove in 2012 and swam for the York YMCA, had a slower time in the semifinal than she did in Tuesday afternoon’s preliminary round. Her preliminary time of 2:06.67 was not only a personal best, but was the second-fastest qualifying time heading into the semifinal round.
Flickinger will be joined in the finals by fellow American Cammile Adams, who finished fourth in the first semifinal and just managed to get into the medal round in the eighth and final spot.
Australia's Madeline Groves had the top 200 fly time at 2:05.66, while Spain's Mireia Belmonte Garcia was second at 2:06.6.
This is Flickinger’s first Olympic appearance, but her performance doesn’t come as a shock to many family friends who’ve known her since she was young.
“I think she peaks under pressure,” said Melissa Grim, who graduated from Spring Grove with Flickinger's mother, Lea, and attended the high school with Flickinger’s father, Doug. “That’s something that I don’t think you can train someone for, and I think she just knows that she peaks when it matters.”
Flickinger is the first York County swimmer to compete in the Olympics since 1996, when Whitney Metzler finished eighth in the 400-meter individual medley at the Atlanta Games. The last York County swimmer to win a medal was in 1948, when York's Bob Sohl won silver in the 200 breaststroke.
Watch party: When Flickinger dove into the pool on Tuesday night, she did so with nearly 1,000 Spring Grove and York County supporters cheering her on at a watch party held at Spring Grove Community Park.
Spectators arrived to the park in droves as early as 7 p.m., many decked out in blue shirts that read "Hali '16" on the back. All proceeds from the shirts, an idea from the Spring Grove Chamber of Commerce, went to helping send several members of Flickinger's family to Rio to watch her swim.
"It's amazing," Grim said. "Our community is very proud of her and we're here to support (her)."
The idea for a watch party stemmed from the Chamber of Commerce as a way for the community to come together and support Spring Grove's hometown hero.
"It was something we got behind very quickly," Spring Grove Chamber of Commerce president John McLucas said. "It was a great opportunity, not just for Hali, but for the people who love Hali and are rooting her on. It's a great way for the town to come together as well."
The idea for a watch party started gaining traction late last week, even with Flickinger not guaranteed to swim in Tuesday night's semifinals. She still had to get through the afternoon preliminary rounds to make sure the watch party went off as expected.
But, not to fear, had she not qualified, the town was still planning on holding a watch party on Tuesday night. Rather than watching her swim, however, the town would've shown highlights of her swimming career, serving as a tribute to her tremendous career, going from a small-town swimmer from Spring Grove to the sport's grandest stage.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com