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Spring Grove's Hali Flickinger excels in her return to long-course swimming

Hali Flickinger

With the Olympic trials three months away, Hali Flickinger took a step toward locking up a spot on Team USA.

The Spring Grove High School graduate dominated her signature event, the 200 butterfly, at the TYR Pro Series in San Antonio, Texas, over the weekend. Flickinger posted a time of 2 minutes, 7.55 seconds, which was more than a full second faster than the second-place finisher.

The Texas event featured many swimmers expected to make the U.S. Olympic Team, including Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel and Simone Manuel. 

Flickinger had a faster time (2:07.20) during qualifying in her first long-course meet since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the season last March. At that time, Flickinger was coming off a silver medal at the 2019 World Championships.

Hali Flickinger

“It’s so much fun, these girls are my friends and I haven’t seen them in so long,” Flickinger told usaswimming.org. “Being able to swim against them, I don’t even see it as racing the whole time, I just see it as having fun with my girls. It’s a feeling that I have really missed.”

It hasn’t been a full year since Flickinger has competed or had success in the pool though. Flickinger was the sixth-highest scoring woman during the 2020 International Swimming League season and finished No. 11 of 300 swimmers in the MVP point standings.

During the six-week season spent in a bubble in Budapest, Hungary, Flickinger competed for her Cali Condors team in several events. Flickinger has qualified for eight other events at the U.S. Olympic Trials — each of the butterfly, backstroke and individual medley events and the 200, 400 and 800 freestyles.

Change in training: Part of Flickinger’s recent success has been because of a change in training. Flickinger relocated to Arizona to work with coach Bob Bowman, the former CEO and head coach of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. Now the Arizona State swimming coach, Bowman is known for training Michael Phelps during his career, which included holding the world record in Flickinger’s top event, the 200 butterfly, for 18 years.

Spring Grove grad Hali Flickinger is world No. 1 in butterfly after finding passion again

“Bob sees things that I don’t necessarily see. I am really hard on myself, but he is able to take all of the positives and put me back to reality when I need it,” Flickinger told swimming world magazine. “He really balances out my weaknesses, especially when it comes to not seeing progress as fast as I would like. I tend to jump to the future and freak out. It is really nice to have his perspective and bring me down to chill mode. He knows the butterfly better than anybody. I get critiqued on my stroke constantly. He still can find what can be better even with good strokes. I still pinch myself that I am able to train with him.”

Flickinger finished seventh in the 200 fly at the 2016 Rio Olympics and had the world’s top time in the event in June 2019. With Olympic trials set to begin on June 4, Flickinger is on track to land a spot on Team USA in Tokyo this summer for the delayed games, which were not held in 2020 as scheduled because of the pandemic.

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.