2023 U.S World Trials Previews: Smith, Flickinger Primed For Sun Devil 1-2 In 200 Fly

2023 U.S. National Championships

Women’s 200 Fly – By The Numbers:

  • World Record: Liu Zige (CHN) — 2:01.81 (2009)
  • American Record: Regan Smith — 2:03.87 (2023)
  • U.S. Open Record: Regan Smith (USA) — 2:03.87 (2023)
  • 2022 U.S. International Team Trials Winner: Hali Flickinger — 2:06.35
  • World Aquatics ‘A’ Cut: 2:09.21

Regan Smith put the world on notice at the Sun Devil Open, blazing her way to a time of 2:03.87 in the 200 fly to close out an already impressive meet. The swim was a new American and U.S Open record, taking another super-suited record off the books. It’s also the fourth-fastest performance in history, only one one-hundredth off of what Zhang Yufei went to win gold in Tokyo. Smith is no stranger to the international podium in the 200 fly–she won silver at the Tokyo Olympics behind Zhang–but that swim made her a serious candidate for gold in Fukuoka alongside early favorite Summer McIntosh.

Smith and her Sun Devil teammate Hali Flickinger have been the U.S. representatives in this event for the last two major senior international meets. Smith’s American record swim distanced her from Flickinger though–she’s now 1.78 seconds faster in the event–and established her as the favorite to win in Indianapolis.

Flickinger, the 2021 Olympic bronze medalist and the runner-up at both the 2019 and 2022 World Championships, has been quiet in 2023. The Sun Devil Open was her first meet since Short Course Worlds in December, and her first long course meet since the 2022 Worlds in June. At the meet, she swam a season-best 2:06.80 in prelims before adding in finals. That’s a solid in-season swim for her–faster than she went in the months before the 2022 Trials, and about half a second off what she swam to win there (2:06.35). It’s also faster than everyone in the field’s lifetime best except for Smith, making her a reliable pick for the second roster spot.

Smith and Flickinger are a powerful 1-2 punch, but that’s not the end of ASU’s fly group. There’s also Lindsay Looney, who has a lifetime best of 2:07.25. She’ll need a great swim to unseat her two teammates, but with plenty of international racing opportunities available this summer, Looney is sure to be in contention for one of those roster spots. Her season-best 2:08.81 comes from ASU’s long course dual meet with Washington State. Since her college season wrapped up she has yet to break 2:10, which she’ll need to do to compete with the tight field behind the two favorites.

The Texas Fly Group

In Austin, the Longhorns have built an impressive butterfly group of their own. It’s possible that there could be three Sun Devils and three Longhorns in the ‘A’ final at this meet.

Pash had a disappointing NCAAs, making only one ‘A’ final (the 200 fly) after qualifying for three in 2022. However, she rebounded well, shifting gears to long course and competing at the Westmont Pro Series and a TXLA meet in April. Her best long-course showing of the spring came at Mission Viejo in May. There, she swam a lifetime best 2:08.20 in the 200 fly on the back end of a 100 free/200 fly double, pipping Luther for the win. Pash skipped Trials last year, but this year she’ll have home-field advantage, swimming in her home state and favorite pool.

Of the three big guns in the Texas fly group, it’s Luther who has the most senior international team experience. She represented the U.S. at SC Worlds in December and came home with a gold medal and personal best in the 200 fly (2:03.37). In fact, over the last year, she’s swum a 200 fly best in all three courses and won the event at U.S. Nationals in July. Texas training is clearly paying off for her, making her a legitimate contender for second place at Trials. If Flickinger has an off-swim, it’s entirely possible that Luther could upset the veteran. Luther’s season-best is the 2:08.25 she swam at the Mission Viejo Pro Swim, which is about 1.2 seconds off her lifetime best of 2:07.02, putting her in a solid position heading into Indianapolis.

And let’s not forget about the newly crowned NCAA champion, Emma Sticklen. She qualified for this ‘A’ final at Trials last year, finishing fourth in 2:08.88. The following month, she bettered that time at the Barcelona stop of the Mare Nostrum, Tour, clocking 2:08.41. Given the iron grip that Smith and Flickinger have had on the 200 fly roster spots during this Olympic cycle and the speed of her own Texas teammates, it would take a huge swim from Sticklen to make the Worlds team. However, there are plenty of racing opportunities this summer outside of Fukuoka, and like Looney, Sticklen should be in the mix for one of those roster spots.

More Names to Watch

The two teenagers to really keep an eye on are Tess Howley and Alex Shackell, both of whom swam at Junior Pan Pacs last summer. They went 1-2 in the ‘B’ final at the 2022 Trials; Howley won in 2:09.25 and Shackell touched in 2:10.21. Both have since eclipsed those marks: Howley posted a 2:08.07 at U.S. Nationals, and Shackell lowered her best to 2:08.68 at the Indy Spring Cup last month.

Shackell’s swim makes her the sixth-fastest 15-16 American girl all-time and she’s dropped best times in multiple events already this season.

Those new personal bests put them in the same 2:08-low/mid-range as swimmers like Pash and Sticklen. Therefore, look for them to not only make the jump to the ‘A’ final this year, but to challenge their senior competition. They’re the front runners to represent the U.S. at Junior Worlds, and should also keep things in the ‘A’ final interesting.

It’s a little unfair on our part that it’s taken this long to get to Charlotte Hook. At 19, she’s already won multiple international medals in this event: bronze at the 2019 Junior Worlds and silver at the 2021 SC Worlds. At last year’s Trials, she finished third (2:08.80), less than nine-tenths back of Smith and a Worlds berth. In her freshman year at Stanford, she swam a lifetime best 1:52.48 in the SCY version of this event.

There are at least nine swimmers capable of making the ‘A’ final, but there are only eight lanes. Right now, in our eyes, Hook is the one on the outside looking in. That’s mostly due to questions about her form; she scratched the 200 fly at Mission Viejo, leaving her with a season-best of 2:10.64 from the U.S. Open in December. And yes, she’s been as fast as 2:07.87, but that’s from 2019–all the other contenders have swum personal bests much more recently. It wouldn’t surprise us to see Hook make the championship final, and if she’s there she could be a factor, but since we have to cut the list down to eight, she’s our pick for the big name who misses.

SwimSwam’s Top 8 Picks:

Place Name Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Regan Smith 2:03.87 2:03.87
2 Hali Flickinger 2:06.80 2:05.65
3 Dakota Luther 2:08.25 2:07.02
4 Kelly Pash 2:08.20 2:08.20
5 Tess Howley 2:09.44 2:08.07
6 Alex Shackell 2:08.68 2:08.68
7 Lindsay Looney 2:08.81 2:07.25
8 Emma Sticklen 2:10.83 2:08.41

Dark Horse: Abby Harter — It took 2:10.85 to make it back to the ‘A’ final last year, and UVA’s Abby Harter holds a lifetime best of 2:11.01. Harter has set best times in both the SCY and LCM 200 fly in the last 14 months, dropping down to 1:53.28 in yards at Women’s NCAAs. If the cutoff time remains at 2:10-high, dropping a few tenths could land Harter in the championship heat in Indianapolis. We talked above about how bunched up the field behind Smith and Flickinger is, so Harter will likely need both a best time and an off-swim from a competitor to land in the ‘A’ final, but after swimming in the ‘B’ final last year, she could be ready to move up. 

See all of our selections for the 2023 U.S. Nationals with the SwimSwam Preview Index here.

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Snowpipers of Alaska
1 year ago

Whoever gets this berth better watch out for Susie O’Neill. She’s really about to peak at the right time.

Sherry Smit
1 year ago

Do we think Sims swims this instead of the 800 free? She loves the 200 fly apparently and was 2:09+ in season. With her fast opening speed (59.7 100 flyer), and her 800 endurance (29+ on the last 50 of an 800), she certainly has potential to pop a 2:07-2:08.

Reply to  Sherry Smit
1 year ago


Alex Shackell (2:08.68) has posted a faster time than Bella Sims (2:09.89) during calendar year 2023.

1 year ago

Regan Smith has posted four personal best times in calendar year 2023 under coach Bob Bowman:

100 FL (LCM)
200 FL (LCM)
200 FR (LCM)
200 IM (LCM)

Greg who?

Sherry Smit
1 year ago

Hot Take: Dakota Luther pulls the upset and is between Smith and Flickinger.

1. R. Smith 2:03.64
2. D. Luther 2:06.19
3. H. Flickinger 2:06.52

Reply to  Sherry Smit
1 year ago

In Bowman, we trust.

Parlez-vous francais?

Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
1 year ago

Yep his top male and female swimmers is looking fast right now.

Last edited 1 year ago by Lisa
In Your Corner
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
1 year ago

Yep. Look out for Devils 1,2,3 in 2fly.

1 year ago

If Charlotte Hook fails to qualify for the final, Greg Meegan should be fired.

1 year ago

A theme that needs to be hammered home:

Bowman >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Meehan

1 year ago

As the youngest on the list, Alex Shackell is definitely the one to watch in calendar year 2024.

Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
1 year ago

Looney has 4th best PB from just 10 months ago, only 0.23 out of 3rd, but is undervallued in your list at 7th.

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Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

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