MISSOULA — Missoula native Katharine Berkoff is keeping her name on the national swimming stage as she chases her first appearance in the Olympics.
Berkoff, a 2019 Hellgate grad, was named to the 2020-21 USA Swimming National Team on Wednesday, marking the second consecutive year she's landed on the team. She's one of just 56 female swimmers from across the country to qualify for the 115-member team.
Berkoff, who swam with the Missoula Acquatic Club, again made the team in the 100-meter backstroke. She initially earned her spot by winning gold in that event at the 2019 World University Games, where she had a time of 59.29 seconds, the fifth-fastest time of the six swimmers who qualified for the national team. The top time is held by Regan Smith at 58.18 seconds.
Typically, the swimmers who make the team are the ones with the six fastest times in their event, which must be achieved at a meet sanctioned by USA Swimming or FINA. But because the pandemic led to meet cancellations, USA Swimming allowed all 2019-20 team members to return, meaning Berkoff's spot was guaranteed for 2020-21. Swimmers who had a faster time than the sixth-place time on the 2019-20 roster were also granted a spot on the team.
Benefits for making the national team include travel to USA Swimming TYR Pro Swim Series meets, training camp opportunities and access to the Olympic Training Center, among other benefits. Select athletes have the ability to receive monthly stipends, athlete health insurance and meet reimbursements.
This year's initial TYR Pro Swim Series is tentaively scheduled for November. The eastern competition is Nov. 5-8 in Richmond, Virginia, and the western competition is Nov. 12-15 in Irvine, California. The series continues with meets in January, March, April and May leading up to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials June 13-20 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Berkoff, who's heading into her second year at North Carolina State, earned five All-American awards as a freshman: 100 back, 200 back, 800 freestyle relay, 200 medley relay and 400 medley relay. She won ACC championships in the 100 back and 400 medley relay, allowing her to qualify for the NCAA championships, which were canceled because of the pandemic.