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Montana swimmers Berkoff, Harder impress at Speedo Junior Nationals

Posted at 12:23 PM, Dec 09, 2018
Billings swimmer Ethan Harder poses on the medal stand at the Speedo Junior West Winter Nationals. (Photo courtesy Billings Aquatic Club)

AUSTIN, Texas – Missoula Hellgate senior Katharine Berkoff re-affirmed her status as one of the top prep swimmers in the nation this weekend with three event wins at the Speedo Junior West Nationals.

Berkoff, who will swim for North Carolina State in college, set Junior Nationals meet records in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke races. Berkoff won the 100 back in 50.72 seconds on Friday, lowering her own record she set in prelims earlier in the day. On Saturday, Berkoff won the 200 back in 1:50.16, breaking the meet record by 0.43 seconds.

Berkoff also won the 100 freestyle in 49.21 on Saturday to claim her third goal medal for the Missoula Aquatic Club.

Billings Aquatic Club swimmer Ethan Harder, meanwhile, just missed out on a gold medal of his own, falling to future University of Texas teammate Peter Larson in the 200 backstroke final, 1:41.60 to 1:41.94. That swim breaks the Montana state record and BAC team record, and puts Harder in the top 25 all-time in the 200 backstroke for the 17-18 age division.

Harder also earned a bronze medal in the 100 backstroke on Friday, finishing in 47.49, just .03 behind second place. Harder missed his third medal by .03, as well, finishing fourth in the 200 individual medley in 1:46.58.

BAC team members Jack Leuthold and Peter Thompson also performed well in their first Junior Nationals meet ever. Leuthold took fourth in the 1650 freestyle in 15:13.94, breaking the Montana state record and BAC team record and making his first Long Course Junior Nationals cut at Stanford University in August. Thompson, just a sophomore at Billings Senior, finished sixth in the same race in 15:17, which is 61st all-time for USA Swimming’s 15-16 age division.

Thompson also swam a 1:41.52 in the 200 freestyle, which earned a Junior Nationals Bonus Cut for next year.