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Hellgate dominates, nine state records fall at MHSA swim meet in Great Falls

Posted at 5:29 PM, Feb 10, 2018

GREAT FALLS — We’re in a golden age of swimming in the Montana.

Saturday at the state meet in Great Falls, nine state records fell as the Missoula Hellgate boys and girls lapped the field for each team’s fifth consecutive championship.

The first record to fall was the girls 200 yard individual medley. Hellgate’s Mari Aoki bested her own time from last year in 2:05.83.

“It was good to know that I had the ability to do that,” Aoki said. “It’s kind of a relief. I always have this doubt that I won’t swim up to my expectations, but to see that I was able to break my own mark was really great.”

The boys and girls 50 yard freestyle records fell in back to back races. Butte sophomore Catherine Russo recorded the first sub 23-second time in Montana history with a 22.76.

Minutes later, Flathead’s Jamie Bouda bested his record setting time from Friday’s preliminary rounds with a 20.48 mark.

Russo, who also broke the state record in the 100 breaststroke, couldn’t hold back her excitement after clinching the record.

“Holy crap!” she exclaimed. “Going under 23 seconds was my goal all year. It’s a huge accomplishment to me, that’s been my goal for a while. I’m friends with Jamie, and that was our goal was to break those 50 free records, so the fact that we both did it was so cool.”

“I felt like it was something special for Montana as a whole,” said Bouda. “We’ve got other great swimmers in the state and every time someone does something like that, I feel great not just for me but four our state as a whole because it raises the caliber of swimming.”

Hellgate’s Katherine Berkoff is likely the brightest star to come out of the Montana pools in years and she showed why on Saturday. She set state records in both the 100 yard freestyle (50.01) and 100 yard backstroke (52.80).

Berkoff won a backstroke title at junior nationals over the summer, and has her sights on more national competitions this in the coming months and hopes to one day qualify for the Olympics.

“I have nationals in August in Irvine, California,” Berkoff said about her summer plans. “I’m hoping to make the junior Pan-Pacific team or the senior Pan-Pac team. That’s my goal for the summer.”

Her time of 52.80 in the backstroke is better than the high school time of Olympic champion Missy Franklin, so the future looks bright for the high school junior.

Billings Central swept the Class A team titles, with junior Jack Leuthold highlighting the Rams’ day by breaking an 18-year old record in the 500 yard freestyle in 4:39.90.

“I think the kids I was racing against were a big push for me,” said Leuthold. “I know those guys, it was fun to race them all. We all like racing against each other. There’s some great competition here.”

Hellgate also broke state records in the girls and boys 400 freestyle relays.

GIRLS TEAM SCORES
1. Missoula Hellgate – 359
2. Bozeman High School – 212
3. Missoula Sentinel – 152
4. Kalispell Glacier – 101
5. Great Falls CMR – 93
6. Billings Central – 65
7. Helena High – 61
8. Helena Capital – 55
8. Butte High School – 55
10. Billings West – 51
11. Great Falls High – 26
12. Whitefish High – 19
13. Havre High School – 18
14. Missoula Big Sky – 15
15. Billings Senior – 13
16. Billings Skyview – 3
17. Kalispell Flathead – 2
17. Columbia Falls – 2

BOYS TEAM SCORES
1. Missoula Hellgate – 304
2. Bozeman High School – 143
3. Kalispell Flathead – 125
4. Helena High School – 124
5. Great Falls High – 116
6. Billings West – 109
7. Butte High School – 81
8. Great Falls CMR – 63
9. Billings Central – 53
10. Missoula Sentinel – 51
11. Billings Senior – 33
12. Whitefish High – 30
13. Missoula Big Sky – 22
14. Kalispell Glacier – 19
15. Helena Capital – 14
16. Hardin High School – 7
17. Columbia Falls – 4