By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Thursday, July 26, 2018
IRVINE, Calif. – Up through last summer, Olympian Hali Flickinger was constantly sick for three years.
Through it all, she finished second in the 200m butterfly at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials to earn a spot in Rio, and then went on to place seventh in that event at the Games.
The next year, she won the first national title of her career at the Phillips 66 National Championships in the 200m fly and finished 9th at the FINA World Championships in Budapest.
All this in what is one of the sport’s most grueling events. Despite being sick, constantly.
It turns out she had a virus similar to mono that just stuck in her system. The remedy was having her tonsils removed on Aug. 30 of last year – four days after he wedding.
“The honeymoon’s this summer, because I was on bed rest after the wedding last summer,” Flickinger said with a laugh.
Since then, she has felt much better – both physically and mentally – and it showed Wednesday at the Phillips 66 National Championships, where he 5-foot-5 dynamo broke a 37-year-old U.S. Open and meet record in the prelims of the 200m butterfly in 2:05.87. She also bested her own personal record of 2:06.67 by almost a second.
“Everyone was asking me this morning if was I expecting to go that,” Flickinger said. “The expression I had on my face was not shock, it was all relief. I’ve dealt with my health for so long, and for it to no longer be an issue anymore is such a relief. Now I can just swim, and show everyone what I’ve trained to do, and I won’t have to deal with my health.
“I was just really relaxed, and I trusted my training. I really worked a lot with my mental game, and I think I was really able to have it all come together this morning.”
The former mark of 2:05.96 was set by butterfly legend Mary T. Meagher at the national championships in Brown Deer, Wis., in 1981.
“It’s insane,” Flickinger said. “It’s crazy that she did it that long ago. I know hard it was for me to do it this morning. That she did that so long ago is so impressive. “
Flickinger’s swim in Wednesday night’s finals might not have been as fast as prelims, but it got the job done, with Flickinger winning her second career national title in 2:06.14. With the win, she qualified for the 2018 U.S. Pan Pacific Championship Team.
“I was pretty amped up after this morning,” Flickinger said. “I didn’t take a nap, and I usually always take a nap. I just tried to keep as cool as I could.
“I definitely think it was a step in the right direction. I know there’s more in the tank, but that just showed me it’s going to come. I was getting a little impatient, and all the coaches knew that, but it’s validation that what I’m doing is right, and it’s going to come when it needs to come.”
Flickinger’s win was just one of several noteworthy races on the first night of finals in Irvine.
Simone Manuel set a U.S. Open and meet record in the finals of the women’s 100m free in 52.54. The former mark of 52.81 was set by U.S. National Team member Mallory Comerford at the Phillips 66 National Championships in Indianapolis last year. Comerford finished second tonight behind Manuel in 53.09, followed by Margot Geer in 53.44 and Olympian Abbey Weitzel in 53.56.
Olympian Katie Ledecky snagged her 14th career long course national title, winning the women’s 800m freestyle in 8:11.98. That was the second-fastest time in the world this year, behind her time of 8:07.27 at the TYR Pro Swim Series meet in May in Indianapolis. It was also the 13th fastest swim of all time in this event. Ledecky owns 19 of the top 20 swims of all time in the 800 free.
Olympian Blake Pieroni broke Nathan Adrian’s streak of national championships in the 100m free in 48.08. Adrian, who has won the 100m free at every summer national championship and Olympic Trials since 2009, finished second in 48.25. Another Olympian, Townley Haas, finished third in 48.30, followed by U.S. National Teamer Zach Apple in fourth in 48.34.
In the men’s 1500m free, Olympian Jordan Wilimovsky was on pace with the U.S. Open record for much of the race but finished about three seconds off the mark in 14:48.89. U.S. National Team member Justin Wright won the men’s 200m fly in 1:54.63.
The winners of tonight’s races – along with the top four swimmers in the 100m free – qualified for the 2018 U.S. Pan Pacific Championships Team, which will compete Aug. 9-12 in Tokyo. Second-place finishers will likely be added to the roster later in the meet, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.
For complete results from tonight’s action, go to omegatiming.com.