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Missoula's Katharine Berkoff in position for Paris Olympics with second-place finish at U.S. Swim Trials

Katharine Berkoff
Posted at 6:59 PM, Jun 18, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — Missoula's Katharine Berkoff put herself in solid position for a berth at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris by finishing second in the finals of the 100-meter backstroke Tuesday at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Berkoff, a Hellgate High School graduate who just completed her final season of collegiate eligibility at North Carolina State, finished the race in 57.91 seconds, her second consecutive sub-58 performance in the 100 backstroke at the U.S. Trials.

Regan Smith, the American record holder in the event, set a new world record Tuesday by winning the race in 57.13, taking the pedestal from Australian swimmer Kaylee McKeown, who established the previous mark at 57.33 in 2023.

Berkoff was neck-and-neck with Smith through the first 60 meters or so before Smith separated down the stretch. With the win, Smith has earned a berth to the Paris Games. Berkoff, by virtue of placing second, is a likely selection to join Smith in the event for Team USA in Paris.

The top finisher in each of the finals is nominated for selection to the American team while athletes who finished second will also be considered for a place on Team USA if they have met the Olympic entry standards set out by World Aquatics.

Berkoff's father Dave is a former world-record holder in the 100-meter backstroke, and competed in the event at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 1992 Barcelona Games. He won gold medals at both with Team USA in the 4x100-meter medley relay.

In the semifinals on Monday, Berkoff won her heat in the 100 backstroke with a time of 57.83 seconds to advance to the finals. Smith broke her own American record in the following heat, winning in 57.47 seconds.

Berkoff also had the second-fastest time in the 100 backstroke in a preliminary semifinal heat earlier Monday with a 58.09 clocking.

Berkoff is also scheduled to compete in the 50-meter freestyle prelims on Saturday. Berkoff withdrew from the 100 freestyle event on Tuesday.

Berkoff had a decorated career at North Carolina State, setting the school record in seven events, winning five national championships and becoming a 30-time All-American. In 2024, she was the NCAA champion in the 100 backstroke and an All-American in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay and 400 medley relay.

Berkoff is one of two Montanans swimming at this year's Olympic Trials. Liam Kerns of Billings swam in the men's 100-meter breaststroke prelims on Saturday.

Louisville swimmer Jake Eccleston of Windsor, Colorado, whose parents are University of Montana alums, competed in the men's 200-meter breaststroke on Tuesday.