When the biggest moment arose, Katharine Berkoff felt a tingle.
After winning the 50 backstroke at U.S. Nationals, Berkoff threw down the best 100 backstroke of her career and qualified for the World Championships in a second event.
“Honestly, I felt pretty weird right before it. I kind of felt all tingly. I was in fight or flight mode, and I think it really helped my mentality going into it. I didn’t think too much about my race, I was just excited to touch the water,” Katharine Berkoff said. “I think it was a combination of the caffeine, not eating enough and the nerves. I was just very shaky and tingly, but it was a good thing, just very strange.”
But you can’t argue with the results.
Her time of 58.01 is third all-time among American performers in history, only behind Regan Smith and Kathleen Baker.
“It means so much. The 100 back is the event I care about. I have had my share of heartbreaks with it,” she said. “It has been a tough mental battle with it, but to make a championship team in the 100 back just means so much to me.”
Berkoff finished fourth at the Olympic Trials in 2021 in the 100 backstroke in 58.82, missing an Olympic spot by two tenths of a second.
“Part of my previous problems were just not knowing how to race a long-course 100 back. I think I wasn’t going out aggressive enough. I was trying to work my tempo but not use my legs too much until the very end, and that is what I did well,” Berkoff said. “I have been working a lot on my pre-race mentality, just trying to remember every experience I have had, I wouldn’t change. They have all helped me in a way. We have really focused more on long-course this year. Last year was a big learning experience. It just didn’t feel very strong. I remind myself that I am doing this because I love it.”
Now, she is heading to the World Championships in multiple events, after winning the 50 backstroke in 27.13, just a hundredth of a second off or her own American record.
“Last year, when I went that time in the 50, I hit every detail perfectly, but this time I got there but it was a little sloppier of a swim. But I felt a lot stronger, so I felt like I was in for a good 100,” she said.
Now, this year has her feeling like she is in for a good 2024, where she hopes to qualify for the Olympics as her father did in 1984.
“It is definitely boosting my confidence so much, especially going into Olympic trials next year. The Olympics have been my dream since I was 5 years old. This is a step in the right direction for sure,” Katharine Berkoff said. “I am definitely not letting up. It was a good confidence booster, but definitely not quite satisfied yet.”