She was as close as you can get.

Missoula native Katharine Berkoff was third at the midway point of her 200 meter backstroke semifinal race Friday at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. She was overtaken during the final half and finished fifth in 2:09.76, a new personal best.

Berkoff finished ninth overall, missing out on qualifying for Saturday's finals by one spot and .15 of a second. Hali Flickinger finished eighth in 2:09.61 in the first heat to barely beat out the swimmer out of the Treasure State who was in a fast second heat that featured three of the top four times. 

Berkoff, along with Summer Smith who took 10th, will be a reserve for the finals.

In the prelims Friday morning Berkoff took fifth overall and third within her heat to advance to the finals at the end of the day. She finished in 2:10.09 and was 2.28 off the first-place finisher Regan Smith, who took first in the 100 backstroke on Tuesday and the top spot in the 200 back semis. Phoebe Bacon took second, Rhyan White was third and Kathaleen Baker was fourth to round out the top five in the semifinals.

The Missoula Hellgate graduate and former Missoula Aquatic Club member most recently has excelled as a North Carolina State swimmer. She won three national titles and earned seven All-American honors in March.

Her dad was a backstroke specialist who earned gold medals in two relays and silver and bronze in the 100 back giving the Missoula native a goal to achieve as she continues to try to follow in her father's footsteps.

She finished fourth in the 100 finals Tuesday, two spots off making the U.S. Olympic team. She missed out by .12 of a second to Rhyan White who finished second to snag the final spot.

Lance Hartzler covers Griz men's basketball and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter at @lance_hartz or shoot him an email at

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