Katharine Berkoff Goes Season Bests as NC State Dominates Auburn, Kentucky

Auburn vs. Kentucky vs. NC State Tri Meet (DAY 1)

  • October 22-23, 2021
  • James E. Martin Aquatic Center, Auburn, Alabama
  • Short Course Yards (25 yards)
  • Results on Meet Mobile: “Auburn vs. Kentucky vs NC State”
  • Live Results
  • Team Scores (Day 1):
    • NC State W def. Kentucky W 180-118
    • NC State W def. Auburn W 187-111
    • Auburn W def. Kentucky W 157-143
    • NC State M def. Kentucky M 191-101
    • NC State M def. Auburn M 184-111
    • Auburn M def. Kentucky 200-100

In the first day of duals in Auburn, Alabama, scored as a separate meet, the NC State Wolfpack dominated the competition, sweeping all four of their head-to-head matchups between the men’s and women’s teams.

The more surprising result was the Auburn sweep of the Kentucky Wildcats, especially on the women’s side. Last season, at the SEC Championships, the Auburn women finished 9th, while Kentucky won their first ever title. The two teams never faced off head-to-head during the tenure of Auburn’s previous head coach, Gary Taylor, with their last head-to-head matchup coming in the fall of 2016.

The teams will race again on Saturday morning in mostly off events, including a 2000 free, 150 free, and a series of 75 and 150 yard stroke events.

Men’s Meet

The NC State men had the fastest finisher in all but one swimming events, including a number of 1-2-3 and 1-2-3-4 results.

That includes in the 100 free, where the #12 recruit in this year’s freshman class Sam Hoover grabbed his first college win. He swam a 43.78, which is the second-fastest time he’s ever been (behind only the 43.10 he went at the 2020 North Carolina State Championship meet). That time ranks him 4th in the NCAA so far this season, and makes him the unly freshman to go under 44 seconds so far.

In that 100 free, NC State went 1-2-3-4, with sophomore Luke Miller (43.88), junior Bartosz Piszczorowicz (43.97), and senior Giovanni Izzo (44.56) following Hoover into the wall. NC State now has three swimmers who have been under 44 seconds this season. Through Thursday’s competition, no other team in the country had more than one.

It’s no surprise, then, that NC State went 1-2 in the 400 free relay to end the session – but more surprising that they did so without Hoover. Miller, Hunter Tapp, Piszczorowicz, and Nyls Korstanje combined for a 2:52.79 win, while the team’s “B” relay of Noah Henderson, David CurtissIzzo, and Eric Knowles combined for a 2:57.28 for 2nd place. Auburn finished 3rd in 2:58.00.

Korstanje split 42.44 to anchor the “A” relay.

Korstanje also won the 50 free (19.72), the 100 fly (46.24), and split 20.39 on the butterfly leg of the winning 200 medley relay (20.39). His 100 fly time ranks 5th in the nation this year.

This is the second-straight weekend where NC State has flashed toward the top of national rankings, and while some events weren’t quite as fast as last weekend (the 200 medley was 1:25.93, about a second slower), other swimmers plowed through with significant time drops.

The one event where NC State didn’t win was the 100 breaststroke. There, Auburn sophomore Reid Mikuta topped the field in 53.11. That’s already within four-tenths of a second of his time from last year’s SEC Championship meet and already faster than he was at any non-conference-championship meet last season.

That’s a known weakness for NC State this season. Senior Rafal Kusto finished 2nd in 54.04 in the 100, and later added a win in the 200 in 1:58.31 – .41 seconds ahead of the runner-up Mikuta.

Other Highlights:

  • NC State went 1-2-3 in the 1000 free, led by sophomores James Plage (9:00.34) and Indiana transfer Will Gallant (9:02.72). Ross Dant, who was 3rd at NCAAs in the mile last season, finished 3rd on Friday in the 1000 free in 9:02.81. For Plage, an NCAA qualifier last season, that 9:00 is an 8 second improvement on his time from last weekend’s dual against Tennessee, and ranks him 3rd in the country this season. Gallant also dropped 8 seconds from the Tennessee meet, while Dant swam about the same time as he was last week.
  • Auburn senior diver Conner Pruitt swept the springboard events, just barely edging-out Kentucky’s Mingli Zhang in the 3-meter by half-a-point, and winning by a more comfortable 14 points on 1-meter.

Women’s Meet

While the scores were just as lopsided in the women’s meet as the men’s for NC State, the Kentucky women were much more competitive with the Auburn women, and even picked up 4 event wins in the meet.

It was still a Wolfpack-dominated meet though, starting with a 1:37.34 in the 200 medley relay that led the field by 2.3 seconds. That NC State relay included Katharine Berkoff (24.17), Sophie Hansson (26.95), Abby Arens (23.59), and Heather MacCausland (22.63).

NC State returns most of that relay that was the NCAA Champion last season.

While the breast, fly, and free legs were a little slower than last week against Tennessee (Kylee Alons swam the fly leg in that meet), the leadoff leg from the junior Berkoff was .13 better than she was a week ago.

That was part of a theme of the meet for Berkoff. She won the 100 back in 51.85, and the 200 back in 1:53.73, both of which are season bests by three-tenths of a second. She ranks 3rd in the NCAA this season in the 100 back and 2nd in the 200 back.

Abby Arens also jumped to a top 3 ranking in the NCAA via a 1:56.19 season best to win the 200 fly. She finished exactly three seconds ahead of the runner-up Avery Bargeron of Auburn, a freshman, who swam a season-best of 1:59.19.

Arens finished 2nd in the 100 fly behind her senior teammate Kylee Alons, with Alons out-touching Arens 52.75-52.97. Alons also won the 50 free in 22.61.

Alons swam 3 individual events and only one relay, which set up a pair of marquee matchups against Riley Gaines, who is the defending SEC Champion in the 200 free. Alons won the first head-to-head of the day in the 50 free by a margin of 22.61-22.86, but after a diving break, Gaines fought back to win the 100 free 49.28-49.40. The two were locked neck-and-neck throughout the race, with Gaines holding a small margin at the turn and stretching it out by a few hundredths on the back-half of the race.

That was one of two victories on the day for Gaines, who also won the 200 free in 1:47.35. That ranks her 3rd in the SEC so far this season behind Louisville’s Arina Openysheva (1:45.75) and Tennessee freshman Julia Mrozinski (1:46.76).

Kentucky head coach Lars Jorgensen was honest about his team’s performance, highlighting some successes but saying that the Wildcats needed more swimmers to “step up” at this level.

“Riley [Gaines] was awesome today with some high-level swims, as was Gillian [Davey] and Lauren [Poole]. Our divers also performed well on the boards,” said head coach Lars Jorgenson. “We competed against two quality teams in Auburn and NC State, and we just didn’t have enough people step up today. We will build upon this and use this as a learning experience going forward with the rest of our season.”

Kentucky also picked up a sweep of the women’s springboard events with wins from Morgan Southall.

Auburn’s top performer at the meet was senior distance swimmer Emily Hetzer. She won both the 1000 free (9:52.42) and 500 free (4:50.40). Those times were both big drops from her results last season in a dual against Florida State, including by about 8 seconds in the 1000.

Other Notable Results:

  • Sophie Hansson, a senior for NC State, won the 100 breaststroke in 59.11 – by more than two seconds. She’s the defending NCAA Champion in that event. That’s a season-best for her. She later won the 200 breast in 2:10.25, which is a few tenths slower than she was last week against Tennessee.

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SwimFan76
1 month ago

So glad fast swimming is happening around the country! Again! Dual and tri meets happening everywhere

Ol' Longhorn
1 month ago

Berkoff and Hansson are going to be unreal this year.,

Swimdawg
1 month ago

Nobody talkin about the auburn women beating the reigning sec champs?? And the men killing kentucky by a 100?

Jim
Reply to  Swimdawg
1 month ago

Id like to see them clear house and bring in coaches that’ll finally be able to bring up the mens team they have. How can a women’s team win SECs and the mens team be fighting for last place year after year. At some point coaches gotta put their egos aside and realize it’s them and not the swimmers.

swammer
Reply to  Swimdawg
1 month ago

As several commentators pointed out and tried to express last year, Auburn was going to be much improved this season (no knock on new staff, but the current roster/incoming freshman/juniors & seniors were going to be the first complete team for previous staff).

NCAC Fan
1 month ago

Hoover is a beast

ACC fan
1 month ago

Maybe training having Kathleen Baker in town has inspired Katharine?

Dude
Reply to  ACC fan
1 month ago

Katharine has been inspired since birth. She doesn’t need any help

NC Fan
Reply to  ACC fan
1 month ago

Because NCAA podium finishers with Olympic aspirations and pedigree need inspiration? Maybe getting pushed in practice helps, but I’m betting her team and personal goals are inspiring enough.

Rowdy Marsh
1 month ago

Auburn swimmers appear to be developing nicely…that’s good to see from the new staff.

swammer
Reply to  Rowdy Marsh
1 month ago

“Development” wasn’t an issue under old staff.

COVID protocols at Auburn last year (mandated from the athletic dept) were different/more stringent than the rest of the SEC and almost every other NCAA program… having the opportunity to actually train in the water has been a difference maker.

James Thompson
Reply to  swammer
1 month ago

If development wasn’t an issue… auburn went from top 15 to unranked with Taylor…. That’s not what I would call development. Considering they also didn’t allow the kids to go come for the holidays, pool time and training wasn’t an issue either.

Happy to see the tigers doing well and fighting hard. It seems like Coach Ryan is providing a healthy and competitive environment.

Last edited 1 month ago by James Thompson
swammer
Reply to  James Thompson
1 month ago

James,
Pre-anything COVID related, last year was going to be a down year for the Auburn teams based on rosters/who they lost (I agree that no one anticipates or wants to go scoreless at NCAA’s or drop in placement at SEC’s.)

One down year doesn’t negate improvements that were made/overall athlete development.
“Not going home for the holidays” wasn’t Taylor’s decision, and the seven months prior to holidays when the Auburn athletes couldn’t be in the water hurt the athletes’ training and competitive performances. We saw this catch up with Auburn at SEC’s & NCAA’s. Not the athletes’ or the coaches’ faults; it was what it was.

swimapologist
Reply to  swammer
1 month ago

Look swammer, I see you on all of these Auburn threads, making excuses for Gary.

But there’s no way around it: if you don’t score points at NCAAs and you’re the head coach at Auburn, then you haven’t done the job. You can justify a 15th place finish when they want NCAA titles, whatever you need to do.

But. Not scoring as the head coach at Auburn, with all of those resources and that enormous salary, is just not something that will ever be acceptable there. Period.

We can winge and moan about whose fault it is that he didn’t score, because I’ve seen before that you like to blame ‘the athletes,’ but the buck stops with the head coach… Read more »

Swim85
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

You think auburn men will score 1 point at this year ncaa? And if they don’t, does this staff get to stay?

swimapologist
Reply to  Swim85
1 month ago

1) you’re being intellectually dishonest. Gary Taylor inheriting a floundering, but still 12th place at NCAAs, team and taking them to 0 points in 3 years is not the same as a coach trying to take a team with 0 points to points in 1 year.
2) If the Auburn men haven’t scored at NCAAs by the end of year three, I would expect this staff to be gone.
3) Yes, I expect Mikkel Gadgaard to score points in the 500 free at NCAAs. He was a 4:14 at a Last Chance Meet, broke the school record (Zane Grothe’s record), and then couldn’t maintain his 3rd taper in 4 weeks so was 20th at NCAAs. If Wochomurka is… Read more »

swammer
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

Swimapologist,
I do not believe that I’m being dishonest in any way. You should go back and check the rosters who of was actually left on roster for last year, and even if two key women hadn’t transferred, Auburn would have dropped in points.
Are you aware that several men (who could have/should have scored) were out of the water due to covid stuff? I think that changes the perspective on tapers. A diver who also would have scored broke their hand before NCAA’s. Bad circumstances just happen sometimes.

swammer
Reply to  Swim85
1 month ago

Yes, because the alums now have the coach they wanted four years ago (an “Auburn man”).

swammer
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

Swimapologist,
I make excuses for no one. I do not blame the athletes. There is always more to the story. Only one narrative was publicly spun, so I’m sharing additional information.

I’m not “whining” about who’s fault not scoring was; I actually feel badly for the athletes and think they were victims of poor decision making by the Auburn Athletic Department. I do think it’s important to point out that the coaches were adamantly against decisions like staying in Auburn for Christmas break, but their hands were tied.

I also agree with you that not scoring and any drop/decline in programs (even if only for one season) is not acceptable at Auburn and by the Auburn alums.

Rowdy Marsh
Reply to  swammer
1 month ago

Yes development was an issue. No amount of excuses about the athletic department or roster can backup the programs downward trajectory under Taylor (culminating in zero points at NCAA’s). He just wasn’t a fit for the program and everyone kind of knew it… nothing against him as a coach, he’ll get another chance.

swammer
Reply to  Rowdy Marsh
1 month ago

Not trying to argue or pick a fight in any way, but just curious as to why exactly you think he wasn’t a fit?

Willy G Superfan
1 month ago

All this talk about Auburn, are we not going to acknowledge Will Gallant’s 14:53 mile in the Saturday session?

swimapologist
Reply to  Willy G Superfan
1 month ago

Are we doing this again? NC State is working really hard to drag the title of “most annoying” away from Virginia.

You acknowledged them. Great. Why was it important to you that someone else do so first? Comes off desperate tbh.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner 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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