Hali Flickinger finishes second, sets personal best in women's 400 IM at Olympic Trials

Hali Flickinger participates in the women's 400 individual medley during the U.S. Olympic Swimming TeamTrials on Sunday in Omaha, Nebraska. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Hali Flickinger posted the second-fastest time in the world in 2021 in the women's 400-meter individual medley on Sunday night, but it wasn't enough to guarantee her a spot in Tokyo this summer.

The Spring Grove High School graduate swam a personal-best time of 4 minutes, 33.96 seconds in the event at the U.S. Swimming Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. She finished just behind Emma Weyant, who won the thrilling event with a time of 4:33.81. Weyant definitely earned a spot on Team USA for the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.

The four top times in the world for 2021 in the women's 400 IM were all posted during the event, which means Flickinger is a near lock to earn the second spot on Team USA for the event in Tokyo next month, once all of the Olympic qualifying has been completed.

The 2016 Olympian jumped out to an early lead with butterfly as the first portion of the race, but Weyant closed during the second half of the race and held on for the win. Flickinger's college teammate and 2016 Olympian in the 400 IM, Melanie Margalis, briefly pulled ahead of both swimmers, but Flickinger just touched before Margalis to claim second.

"I saw them coming and I knew my legs were a little toast," Flickinger said during a media availability after the race. "I used them a lot more than I usually put on the backstroke, so I knew they were coming. I was self talking that whole last 50 (meters), telling myself, 'You got it, you can do it just kick, just kick.' I'm still a little in shock."

Flickinger, a former University of Georgia standout, took the top spot during the preliminary heats at the trials with a 4:37.79, with Weyant just behind her. Flickinger's previous best time in the 400 IM was 4:37.55 earlier this year.

Flickinger was a member of Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in the 200-meter butterfly and is expected to earn that spot again in 2021. Flickinger finished seventh in the race in Rio in 2016. She currently trains with Sun Devil Swimming in Arizona under nationally-known coach Bob Bowman.

The former Rocket swimmer will attempt to regain her spot on Team USA in the 200-meter butterfly, starting with preliminaries on Wednesday. The 200 butterfly final is Thursday evening.

Hali Flickinger participates in the Women's 400 Individual Medley during wave 2 of the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials on Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Last month, Flickinger won the 200-meter butterfly event at the TYR Pro Series race with a time of 2:06.70. Flickinger also won the 400 IM event at the TYR Pro Series with a time of 4:37.73 and was nearly three seconds ahead of 2018 national champion, Ally McHugh.

"I just kind of started training it, like focusing a little bit on it the past few months," Flickinger said. "Especially when I dropped time at Mission, we kind of thought, 'Oh, maybe we have a shot,' (at making the Olympic team in the 400 IM), you don't know, but it's just really cool to see hard work pay off, so I'm really excited."

U.S. Swimming Olympic Team Trials will continue through June 20 and will be broadcast on NBC.

Flickinger is also expected to compete in the 200 freestyle on Tuesday and the 200 backstroke on Friday and Saturday.

In addition to Flickinger, another York County product is competing in the Olympic Trials. York Suburban High School graduate Coleman Stewart will compete in men's 100 backstroke, 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly. Stewart is a former North Carolina State standout. 

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.