butIn our new series, Roadmaps – Mapping the Journey of US Swimming Stars, we will explore how modern-day Olympians climbed their way to the top, starting from as early as 8 years old all the way to their elite level today.
One of the most competitive events in the US this Olympic quad is the women’s 100 back, headlined with college stars and teen prodigies. Among this talented octuplet include the three fastest 15-16 swimmers in 100-yard back history, two (current and past) world record-holders, and numerous major national/international event champions. Read more about how these women sky-rocketed to the senior elite level in this installment of Roadmaps.
2017-2020 Olympic Quad: US Women’s 100 BK LCM
|1||Regan Smith||57.57||2019 World Championships|
|2||Kathleen Baker||58.00||2018 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|3||Phoebe Bacon||58.63||2019 U.S. Open|
|4||Olivia Smoliga||58.73||2019 Pro Swim Series- Richmond|
|5||Katharine Berkoff||59.29||2019 World University Games|
|6||Ali DeLoof||59.43||2017 Pro Swim Series- Mesa|
|7||Amy Bilquist||59.64||2019 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|8||Isabelle Stadden||59.69||2019 Pan American Games|
*Hannah Stevens (59.40) and Elise Haan (59.62) rank in the top 8 times, however, both are now retired from swimming.
Historically Fast Age-Groupers
At 8 years old, Amy Bilquist hit 1:13.65 in the 100-yard back and 1:21.45 in the 100-meter back in 2006. Her LCM swim currently is the 3rd-fastest time swam by a US 8&U female from 2000-2009. The next year, Bilquist hit 1:04.81 SCY and 1:14.38 LCM, both the fastest times swam by a 9-year-old female during the 2000s.
In 2013, Regan Smith made history as the first US 10&U swimmer to break 1:00 in the 100-yard back. She also stormed to a 27.79 in the 50-yard back at 10 years old. Two years later, Miriam Sheehan dominated both of Smith’s records, however, now represents Puerto Rico internationally. No other American 10&U female has yet to break Smith or Sheehan’s marks.
Smith was just as fierce once she aged up to the 11-12 age group, hitting a 25.69 NAG in the 50-yard back, which stood for 5 years. Smith is one of six US 12&U females to break 26 seconds in the 50-yard back. Kathleen Baker and Phoebe Bacon were also under 27 seconds once in the 11-12 age group.
Women’s 50 BK SCY: Times By Age Group
*split taken from Smoliga’s first 50 of her 2011 IHSA title-winning 100-yard back (51.84) as a high school senior.
High School Phenomenons
Before her 16th birthday, Regan Smith was already under 52 seconds in the 100-yard back and 1:00 in the long course event. Phoebe Bacon, Isabelle Stadden, and Katharine Berkoff were also under 52 SCY and 1:00 LCM before turning 17. Contrastingly, Ali DeLoof did not hit those competitive marks until she was 21.
Olivia Smoliga, while starting competitive swimming at 12 years old, quickly progressed throughout middle and high school. Once Smoliga reached high school, she became a multi-time Illinois state champion and record-holder. Her 100 back national public high school record of 51.43 from 2012 still stands to this day.
Currently, Regan Smith is the fastest 15-18 US female to ever have swum the 100 back. In the 15-16 age group, Phoebe Bacon remains the second-fastest ever to hit the 100 back SCY and LCM. Isabelle Stadden is the 3rd-fastest 15-16 swimmer in the 100-yard back at the 4th-fastest in the LCM event, right behind 2012 Olympic champion Missy Franklin. Along with Smith, Bacon, and Stadden, Amy Bilquist, Katharine Berkoff, Kathleen Baker, and Olivia Smoliga rank in the top-10 fastest 17-18 US swimmers in 100 back history.
All-Time Age Group Rankings: 15-18 U.S. Women’s 100 BK
|1||Regan Smith||58.83||1||Regan Smith||50.58|
|2||Phoebe Bacon||59.02||2||Phoebe Bacon||51.18|
|4||Isabelle Stadden||59.71||3||Isabelle Stadden||51.23|
|1||Regan Smith||57.57||1||Regan Smith||49.66|
|3||Phoebe Bacon||58.63||3||Amy Bilquist||50.50|
|5||Katharine Berkoff||59.29||5||Phoebe Bacon||50.70|
|6||Amy Bilquist||59.37||6||Katharine Berkoff||50.72|
Entering the NCAA
Kathleen Baker was the only swimmer of this group to earn an NCAA title in the 100-yard back, which she earned as a freshman at Cal. Olivia Smoliga, despite not earning a 100 back title, did top the 50-yard free as a freshman and junior with Georgia in 2014 and 2016. Ali DeLoof broke out onto the senior elite level during her time with Michigan, earning numerous relay All-American finishes from 2013-2016. Amy Bilquist became a stellar relay asset to Cal, earning 6 NCAA relay titles during her 2016-2019 career.
Katharine Berkoff (NC State) won the 2020 ACC title in the 100-yard back as a freshman, but she has yet to break her sub-51 lifetime best (50.72) from high school. While the 2020 NCAA Championships got canceled due to COVID-19, Berkoff was ranked 8th place overall on the psych sheets, the fastest freshman in the event. Regan Smith, Phoebe Bacon, and Isabelle Stadden are still in high school, however, all of their 100-yard back times would have easily placed at the 2020 NCAA Championships. Smith would have ranked 1st, Bacon 5th, and Stadden 9th.
Women’s 100 BK SCY: Lifetime Bests
The Future Olympic Generation
Kathleen Baker and Olivia Smoliga‘s performances in 2016 raised the bar for US women in the 100-meter back. During the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials final, Smoliga and Baker shut out Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin for their first Olympic teams. At the Games, Baker had an epic showdown with Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu in the 100 back final, earning an Olympic silver medal. Smoliga, despite not medaling in the final, was able to earn a gold medal by swimming the 400 medley relay in prelims.
After the 2016 Olympics, Baker earned another 100 back silver medal during the 2017 World Championships. The next year, Baker made a big statement by breaking the 100-meter back world record (58.00) at the 2018 U.S. Nationals. Smoliga blasted off after the 2016 Olympics, winning 8 gold medals (2 in the 50/100 back) at the 2018 Short Course World Championships. At the 2019 World Championships, Smoliga earned bronze in the 100 back and stormed to a 50 back title.
At the 2016 U.S. Trials meet, Amy Bilquist and Ali DeLoof finished 3rd and 4th respectively during the 100 back final, missing out on the Olympic team. While both missed out on the team, they worked hard during their NCAA careers. At the 2019 U.S. Nationals, Bilquist finally won her first 100-meter back national title. DeLoof did earn a short course Worlds silver medal in the 50-meter back in 2016.
Teenagers Regan Smith, Phoebe Bacon, Katharine Berkoff, and Isabelle Stadden quickly responded to Baker and Smoliga by tearing up junior competition before breaking out at the senior level during the beginning of this Olympic cycle. Smith became a double World champion and backstroke world record-holder in 2019, two years after making her first Worlds team at 15. Bacon and Stadden went on to earn medals at the 2019 Pan American Games while Berkoff became the 100 back champion at the 2019 World University Games.
Single Age Progression: Women’s 100 BK LCM (Ages 8-25)
Single Age Progression: Women’s 100 BK SCY (Ages 8-23)
More from the Roadmaps Series:
- Men’s 100 Free
- Women’s 100 Free
- Men’s 100 Breast
- Women’s 100 Breast
- Men’s 100 Fly
- Women’s 100 Fly
- Men’s 100 Back
Comment below what event progression you would like to see for the next Roadmaps installment.