MISSOULA – We only have a few months left to appreciate one of the most dominant high school careers we’ve ever seen in western Montana, as Katharine Berkoff continues to smash records in the pool.
The Missoula Hellgate senior helped with two relay and two individual wins as the Knights blasted the competition at their home meet on Saturday. This came one week after Berkoff proved she is one of the best teenage swimmers in the entire nation.
She set Speedo Junior Nationals meet records in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke, while also winning the 100 freestyle and finishing second in the 200 individual medley.
Berkoff admitted she didn’t like swimming as a young kid because the pool was too cold. But once she could start competing, she didn’t want to stop.
“I really like working hard at meets,” she said. “Just the adrenaline, it’s fun, but it’s really stressful at times. But it’s so rewarding once you’re done and achieved what you wanted to. I’m just super competitive, so it’s a good thing for me.”
Berkoff’s competitive side showed after the meet, too, when she found out her great performance in the 100 backstroke came up just short of an even bigger mark.
“I was kind of sad because I was (0.2 seconds) off of the national age group record,” she lamented. “But it wasn’t a big deal, because I didn’t even know I was close to it before. So I was really happy with what (time) I went. Sometimes I question myself at meets. But after my first race, which was the 200 IM and I did really well, I kind of figured the rest of the meet would turn out pretty well, too.”
Berkoff wants to help Hellgate win a sixth straight team state title in February and finish her career winning every single race she has entered at the state meet. Then she’ll swim at North Carolina State and continue to chase her goal of qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.
-Derek Buerkle reporting for MTN Sports