Katharine Berkoff Finishes HS Career with 16 Montana State Titles

2019 Montana High School State Championship Meet Girls

  • February 8th-9th, 2019
  • Bozeman Swim Center, Bozeman, Montana
  • 25y, prelims/finals; A/B finals for Class AA | A finals only for Class A-B; 6-per final scoring
  • Meet Results
  • Team Scores – Girls

There are few things in sports as consistent as the outcome of the Montana AA girls’ state championship meet. For the 6th-straight year, Missoula Hellgate High School has come away with the title among the state’s biggest schools, while Bozeman placed 2nd.

The A-B Division, which is less predictable, saw Whitefish High School eke out a 3-point win over Billings Central Catholic, with the former jumping from 2nd place last season to win their 2nd title in 3 years.

Class AA

Hellgate, led by senior Katharine Berkoff, a US Junior National Team member and NC State commit, opened the meet with their 8th-straight state title in the girls’ 200 medley relay. Their time of 1:48.80 was 3 seconds shy of their 2017 state record in the event, but Berkoff’s 24.38 leadoff split on the backstroke gave them a 5+ second lead on the field. While Sentinel was able to claw their way back in to the race (including a 29-second breaststroke split from Delaney Carlson), that lead was just too much to overcome.

Berkoff was the swimmer of the meet, setting new State Records in both of her individual events. In the 100 free, she won in 49.90, which broke her own record of 50.01 set last season. Then, in the 100 back, she won in 52.40, which also broke her own record set last year in 52.80. She won those races by a combined margin of almost 12 seconds.

She went a perfect 4-for-4, including a 23.26 leadoff on Hellgate’s 200 free relay as they rolled to a 1:41.02 win in that race, along with Anya Craig, Avery Maxwell, and Aidan Condit (once again missing their own state record).

Berkoff finishes her high school career having won a maximum 16 event state titles and 4 team state titles. Individually, that includes a slight deviation as a sophomore, where she won the 200 free as her first race rather than the 100 free.

Berkoff wasn’t the only double winner in Hellgates significant senior class. Gabby Smart took titles in both the 200 IM (2:10.28) and the 500 free (5:09.74). Smart didn’t appear to be rested for this meet, as she’s been significantly faster in both events, including a 2:06 200 IM just 2 weeks earlier.

Other Class AA Event Winners:

  • Bozeman’s Erin McKinney won the 100 breaststroke in 1:07.18 She was the runner-up at last year’s state meet, but graduated to champion this year in spite of a slower overall time.
  • Glacier senior AJ Popp won the girls’ 200 free in 1:56.17, using a huge final 50 to close a 6-tenths gap on Lily Milner (1:56.92). Overall, she was 1.4 seconds better than Milner on that last 50. Popp swam a brutal double, and still managed to take 2nd in the 200 IM one event later in 2:13.22.
  • Junior Catherine Russo of the Butte Bulldogs won the Class AA 50 free in 23.28. That’s about half-a-second slower than she went at last year’s state meet to set the state record, but keeps her undefeated run in this event at the state meet alive.
  • Coming out of the diving break, Russo also won the 100 fly in 55.67. She was the only swimmer to go sub-minute in that event, and made for 3-straight event titles in that race as well.
  • Bozeman, while they didn’t win the meet, capped off the day with a win in the 400 free relay in 3:40.69, beating Hellgate by .21 seconds. Led off by the breaststroker McKinney, Bozeman’s relay included 4 underclasssmen: Sara Guillen (sophomore), Annika Mittelsteadt (freshman), and Annika Lawrence (freshman). With Hellgate facing big graduations, and this being their first 400 free relay loss since 2012, Bozeman might be setting up to reverse the order at thee top next season.

Top 5 Team Scores:

  1. Missoula Hellgate – 280
  2. Bozeman High School – 224
  3. Missoula Sentinel – 193
  4. Capital High School – 90
  5. Billings Senior – 82

Class A-B

Whitefish High would win only one relay in the meet (the 400 free relay, where they were the only team that advanced to the final), but they took 5 individual event victories to come.

Freshman Ada Qunell was a double winner for Whitefish, topping the 200 IM (2:15.92) and 100 fly (1:01.99), both of which came in times that were completely unchallenged at the A-B level. Joining her as a double winner for the champions was Annie Sullivan, who won the 500 free in 5:41.01 and 100 breaststroke in 1:14.48.

Sophomore Helena Kunz topped off the victories for Whitefish by winning the 200 free in 2:02.89.

Other Class A-B Event Winners:

  • Billings Central Catholic sophomore Julia Peterson won the girls’ 50 free in 23.99. She was the only swimmer sub-27 in that race. She doubled up by winning the 100 free in 52.85.
  • Billings Central Catholic, anchored by a 23.8 from Peterson, won the girls’ 200 free relay in 1:49.45. They also won the 200 medley relay in 1:59.39.
  • Billings Central Catholic’s Riley Kunz won the girls’ 100  backstroke in 1:07.70, leading a 1-2 underclassmen finish that had freshman Katelyn Anderson take 2nd in 1:08.56.

Top 5 Team Scores:

  1. Whitefish High – 91
  2. Billings Central Catholic – 88
  3. Hardin High – 49
  4. Havre High – 19
  5. Columbia Falls – 7

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Going to make her dad look like a piker.

ACC fan

Congratulations Katharine!! What an accomplishment!

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Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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