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One More Lap

Katharine Berkoff ’23 returns for a fifth year and some unfinished business in the water.

Photograph by Mike Lewis

Katharine Berkoff ’23 has five ACC gold medals and is a four-time national champion, taking back-to-back titles in the 100-meter backstroke in 2021 and 2022. The Missoula, Mont., native has also been named an All-American 25 times and is a member of the U.S. national team with a chance to make the Olympics in 2024. Berkoff is pursuing a graduate degree in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology.

What goals have you set for your fifth year? Last year, I didn’t really have the season I wanted. I was just sick all winter. And I was still training but very exhausted. I put a lot of pressure on myself from winning the 100 back two years in a row. I just kind of crumbled under the pressure . . . Now that I didn’t win last year, there’s a lot less pressure on me. My goal is to win again. That would be such an awesome way to end.

What has being on the U.S. national team meant to you? My dad was an Olympian in ’88, ’92, and that was my first inspiration. From a very young age, this was my goal. Olympic team gold medal, world record.  . . . Making [USA Swimming’s] world championship team in the 100 back was such a step in the right direction.

Katharine Berkoff. Photograph courtesy of NC State Athletics

Considering COVID-19, NIL and conference realignment, what will you take from competing at such a unique point in the NCAA’s history? COVID alone just made so many changes. I guess I don’t know what a normal college experience is really. But I think it was a special time to be in college because it forced everyone to grow up in a way that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

What have you missed about Montana? I’m such a mountain girl. I love the creeks and rivers and lakes.  

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