Current NC State senior Katharine Berkoff confirmed to SwimSwam on Wednesday that she would be using her fifth year of eligibility given to all NCAA athletes who competed during the COVID-19-ridden 2020-21 NCAA season, meaning that she will be competing for NC State during the 2023-24 season. She plans on using the extra year to study either Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology or Microbiology in a master’s degree program.
“I decided to take a fifth year because I love NC State and I love college swimming,” Berkoff told SwimSwam. “It’s so fun and I’m not ready for it to end yet. I plan to stay and train at NC State after my eligibility is done but I figured I should just compete in college while I can!”
With Berkoff’s decision, we now know the future plans of the two highest-profile fourth-year seniors in women’s NCAA swimming, as eight-time NCAA champion Kate Douglass told SwimSwam last week that as of now, she does not plan on using her fifth year.
Berkoff is a two-time national champion in the 100-yard back, having won the NCAA title in the event in both 2021 and 2022. At the 2022 NCAA Championships, she became the first woman to go under the 49-second barrier in the 100 back, swimming a 48.74 to finish first and break the US Open, American, and NCAA record. In addition, she also clocked the fastest 50-yard back ever leading off NC State’s 200 medley relay at NCAAs, going 22.78.
At 2022 NCAAs, Berkoff was NC State’s top individual scorer, racking up 48 points. In addition to winning the 100 back, she also finished third in the 100 free and seventh in the 50 free. She has made a transition towards the sprint events in the latter half of her collegiate career, as she raced the 200 back over the 100 free at championships meets in her freshman and sophomore year and raced the 500 free over the 50 free at ACCs her freshman year.
Katharine Berkoff, Best Times:
- 50 free: 21.55
- 100 free: 46.89
- 200 free: 1:46.14
- 500 free: 4:44.12
- 100 back: 48.74 (NCAA record)
- 200 back: 1:50.13
Berkoff staying for a fifth year will be extremely beneficial to NC State, which gains a relatively small five-person freshman class next season (and only one top 20 recruit, #11-ranked Miriam Sheehan).
In addition to her short-course success, Berkoff is also a contender to make long-course international teams. She is the Americas record holder and 2022 Worlds silver medalist in the 50 back and swam the top time in the event for 2022 (27.12). She is also on the U.S. National team for the 100 back.
In an Olympic year cycle, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Here is certainly is going very well, so don’t change anything. Berkoff is also a player to get a piece of the 4×100 free relay in Paris considering how strong her sprint free is now.
The Covid 5th year must be a real headache for the coaches! They are recruiting HS juniors but don’t know what their own college juniors will do and if they want to save them scholarship money?! Their swimmers might say they will swim a 5th year but understandably might have a change of heart when the time comes. Even if they don’t swim but need an extra semester or year to graduate, most schools (not uva) will pay for it!
Coaches don’t have to accept 5th years. They can thank those swimmers for their time and show them how to submit their info to the transfer portal.
I am well aware of that but that doesn’t make the unknown in the decision any easier.
UVA’s “massive senior class” consists of 4 NCAA swimmers and 2 NCAA divers. While the graduation of Kate Douglass will be significant, the others have not announced their plans publicly. Most importantly, UVA brings in a small but solid class headlined by #3 Cavan Gormsen, #6 Tess Howley, HM Maggie Schalow and fast-rising flyer Lainey Mullins. I hope Katharine Berkoff continues to improve and her races against Gretchen Walsh will be epic. But I wouldn’t put my money on NCSU upending UVA at ACCs in 2024. But first, let’s get pumped for ACCs 2023 this week!
this!! ella nelson is also staying at UVA for her masters, so she could potentially be UVA’s first 5th year…
“With UVA likely losing a massive senior class and NC State retaining their best swimmer, the Pack could be in a favorable position to upset UVA at 2024 ACCs.”
From an ACCs standpoint, NC State loses almost as much as UVA in Alons, Muzzy, Watson, Podmanikova, and a few other ACC scorers that could leave.
Good news for NC State. Great news for another exciting NCAA season.
That’s great for the NC State women!