(Photo courtesy Billings Aquatic Club)

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Two of Montana’s best swimmers added impressive lines to their resumes this weekend.

Billings native Ethan Harder and Missoula native Katharine Berkoff won backstroke titles at the USA Speedo Winter Junior Nationals to become the first ever Junior National swimming champions from Montana.

Harder, representing the Billings Aquatic Club, won the 200 yard backstroke event Saturday night in a new personal record of 1:43.04. The 17-year-old beat Harrison Lierz by 0.72 seconds, setting a new Montana State record in the process inside the University of Iowa Recreation Center.

The time is also almost two seconds under the Phillips 66 National Championships time standard of 1:44.79.

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Berkoff, swimming for the Missoula Aquatic Club, won the 100 yard backstroke event Friday night in a new pool-record time of 51.95. The 16-year-old beat Lucie Nordmann by 0.21 seconds during her new personal record swim.

Nordmann got her revenge Saturday by beating Berkoff in the 200 yard backstroke in her own new pool record of 1:52.18. Berkoff finished second in 1:53.61. She also qualifies for the 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships in both events.

Berkoff added a 12th place finish in the 200 yard Individual Medley final (1:59.96) on Thursday night.

Harder finished 11th in his 200 yard IM final in 1:48.02 seconds, a huge improvement from his 133rd place ranking in the event going into the 2016 Junior Nationals. Harder added a 10th place finish Friday night in the 100 backstroke final (48.19) and a 15th place finish in the 200 yard Butterfly final (1:50.13) on Saturday.

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