Backstroker Kate Luft Transfers from South Carolina to UCLA

Rising sophomore Kate Luft has announced her transfer from South Carolina to UCLA for this fall. Luft is from Pennsylvania and trained with Hershey Aquatic Club leading up to her freshman year at South Carolina.

I am incredibly excited to announce that I will be transferring to UCLA this fall. This decision was made primarily with my post-swimming career in mind, so it is very important for me to acknowledge that I have nothing but respect and appreciation for all that the program offered to me at South Carolina. That being said, I cannot wait to start this next chapter with amazing new coaches, teammates, and academic opportunities in LA. Let’s go Bruins!


  • 50 back – 24.58 (25.12 pre-college)
  • 100 back – 53.84 (54.16 pre-college)
  • 200 back – 1:56.90 (2:02.03 pre-college)
  • 100 free – 51.10
  • 200 free – 1:49.15
  • 200 IM – 2:02.42

In her freshman season with the Gamecocks, Luft improved marginally in the 50 and 100 back while taking over five seconds off of her old best in the 200 back. Her bests in the 100/200 free and 200 IM are from high school.

At the 2020 SEC Champs, Luft raced the 200 IM (2:02.65), 100 back (53.93) and 200 back (1:56.90), just missing the C-final in the backstroke events placing 27th in both. She also raced on South Carolina’s 10th-place 200 medley relay, separately hitting her best 24.58 leading off a time trial of the relay. Luft tells SwimSwam she “would have been swimming on the 400 medley relay at NCAAs.” NCAAs were canceled due to the pandemic; now-graduated Emily Cornell was 53.65 leading off the Gamecocks’ 400 medley relay at SECs, and she was 53.47 in prelims of the individual 100 back.

Luft’s final swim for South Carolina came at the Bulldog Last Chance meet, where she hit her lifetime best 53.84 in the 100 back. South Carolina graduated a strong senior class, including Cornell, and this is the second transfer out on the women’s side this season; SEC A-finalist Hallie Kinsey, primarily a butterflier, recently announced her decision to switch schools and compete for the University of Southern California, also in the Pac-12.

South Carolina’s top returner in the 100 back is rising senior Emma Otten (54.05) while rising junior Mariana Kraus is the top returner in the 200 back (1:55.56).

Luft will strengthen the UCLA backstroke group led by rising sophomore Sophia Kosturos (24.9/52.7/1:55.5 last year). Kosturos was the only sub-25 and sub-54 sprint backstroker last season for the Bruins, while a trio of 1:56-1:57 200 backstrokers (Delaney Smith, Abriana Howard, Ella Kirshke) are rising juniors.

Luft, who is better at the 50 than anyone on the Bruins’ roster right now, could slot in immediately on their 200 medley relay back leg. Meanwhile, she would’ve made the 100 back B-final and 200 back C-final at the 2020 Pac-12 Championships, where UCLA finished fourth, just ahead of Arizona State.

UCLA has another backstroke transfer, Katrina Sommer from Indiana (55.5/1:59.0 in back), joining the team this fall. Luft will join Sommer along with the incoming class of 2024: Aurora Huxman, Bailey HerbertCrystal MurphyGreta FantaMadeline SmithMaddie WrightMaya Wilson and Sam Baron.

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5 months ago

Wow! Kate just couldn’t stand wearing anything with USC on it so she decided to transfer to UCLA. She can wave to her old team mate Hallie Kinsey 12 miles across town swimming for the Trojans. 😉

SoCal Swim Dad
5 months ago

Happy for her. No doubt. I am wondering how many swimmers UCLA is carrying on that roster. It sure seems like a lot.

5 months ago

What’s up with the recent transfers from SC women’s team? Unusual or no?

Reply to  SwimMom
5 months ago

2 good swimmers for sure, but I wouldn’t say it’s enough of a trend yet to draw any greater conclusions. The program has taken a step back in terms of SEC placement since Mark Bernardino left for NC State.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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