Missoula’s Katharine Berkoff sets American swimming record

Expectations are always high for Missoula native Katharine Berkoff. But even she found a way to exceed those on Friday.

The Hellgate High graduate and junior for North Carolina State’s women’s swimming program won the national title in the 100-yard backstroke for the second straight year at the 2022 NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta, Georgia. On top of becoming an individual national champion once again, Berkoff finished the race in 48.74 seconds which set a new American record in the event as the fastest time in history. It was the first time in history that a woman had broke the 49-second barrier in the event, and is the first American record broken in NC State women’s swimming history. Watch video of Berkoff’s race here.

Berkoff — who was a 16-time individual high school state champion for Hellgate and who never lost a high school race — now owns the NCAA, ACC, American, US Open, pool, and program records in the event.

It was Berkoff’s fourth national championship in her college career with the Wolfpack, with back-to-back titles in the 100 backstroke as well as championships in the 400 medley relay and 200 medley relay, both from 2021.

It’s been another memorable nationals meet for Berkoff. Berkoff and her teammates finished in second place in the 200-yard medley relay on Wednesday for the runner-up national finish.

On the second day of the meet on Thursday, Berkoff finished in seventh place individually in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21.55 seconds. She then swam a leg on NC State’s 200-yard freestyle relay that finished in third place.

On Friday, along with her record-setting performance, Berkoff also swam a leg on NC State’s 400-yard medley relay that finished in second place at nationals.

Berkoff entered the national meet as a 12-time college All-American, and her performances through the first three days add five more to that tally. Berkoff is scheduled to compete in one more event at nationals as she will swim in the 100-yard freestyle on Saturday, the final day of the event.

Berkoff also entered nationals after winning two ACC titles back in February and a gold medal at the FINA World Swimming Championships in December.

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