SWIMvsUVA Hansson Swims Breaststroke

Sophie Hansson, a freshman from Helsingborg, Sweden, swims in the 100-yard breaststroke against University of Virginia on Jan. 26 at Casey Aquatic Center. Hansson had a final time of 59.77, helping the Wolfpack beat the UVA women’s swim team 167-127.

Eleven NC State students and alums stepped out on the world stage for the 2021 FINA Short Course World Championships in Abu Dhabi this past week. Postponed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, swimming fans were chomping at the bit to see some of the world’s fastest swimmers perform on the international stage.

Although most racing took place while American fans were fast asleep, there were plenty of great swims from student athletes and old pros alike. For the very first session of the meet, senior Sophie Hansson posted 29.57 to finish second in the heats of the 50-meter breaststroke, and junior Kacper Stokowski tied for first in the 100-meter backstroke to easily clinch his spot for semifinals. Junior Katharine Berkoff followed suit, touching the wall in 55.92 to finish first in the 100-meter backstroke heats.

That evening – or rather, morning, if you were watching in the United States – both Stokowski and Berkoff finished in the top eight of the 100-meter backstroke semifinals for a shot at a medal the following evening. Hansson placed fourth in the 50-meter backstroke semifinals, posting a time that was a tad slower than her preliminary swim, but enough to make finals. The United States tied Canada for gold in the women’s 4x100 freestyle relay finals, featuring a blistering third leg from Berkoff. With help from Hansson, Sweden finished third in the same race behind the US and Canada.

During the first session of the second day of competition, Berkoff led off the preliminary 4x50 medley relay with a blistering 25.88. Junior Nyls Korstanje posted a 49.97 in the 100-meter butterfly to finish fifth ahead of semifinals, just barely off the Netherlands’ national record.

Friday night finals were off to a blistering start for Hansson – her 29.07 breaststroke split in the 4x50 medley relay final contributed to Sweden’s first-place finish in 1:42.38, tying the World and Championship records to boot. Although Berkoff was subbed out for USA Olympian Rhyan White, the United States still posted a 1:43.61 to finish about half a second ahead of the Netherlands and pick up the silver.

Stokowski tied for fifth in the 100-meter backstroke finals, finishing just 0.2 away from the podium. Although Wolfpack fans were more than happy to see Stokowski racing for his native country, it was hard to forget about legendary alum Coleman Stewart’s glaring absence from the roster. Despite his world record-breaking performance in the 100-meter backstroke in late August, qualification for Short Course Worlds was, for whatever reason, determined by long course times. Stewart spoke out about his absence from the roster, criticizing the outdated selection process.

Beyond the medley relay, Berkoff finished third in the 100-meter backstroke final in 55.40, barely outtouching Kira Toussaint of the Netherlands for the bronze. The United States finished fourth in the mixed 4x50 freestyle relay finals, despite NC State alum Ryan Held’s blistering 20.86 split.

The following morning, Stokowski posted a 23.33 in the 50-meter backstroke for a top-16 finish ahead of semifinals. Held tied for third in the 50-meter freestyle – although a little slower than his blazing leadoff leg in the mixed freestyle relay the night before, his 21.01 was a mere 0.2 off of the first-place finisher. Berkoff made yet another relay appearance, this time in the mixed 4x50 medley relay heats.

Held continued to prove himself that evening, improving upon his prelims time to post a first-place finish of 20.81 in the semifinals of the 50-meter freestyle. Although Held’s swim was arguably the highlight of the session for Wolfpack fans, Stokowski scraped into the 50-meter backstroke finals with a 23.17 finish, and NC State alum Andreas Vazaios qualified fifth for Greece ahead of the 100-meter individual medley finals.

Sunday morning saw two top-three preliminary finishes for the Wolfpack. In the heats of the 50-meter butterfly, Korstanje finished second and a mere 0.05 off of his national record of 22.35. Hansson clinched the top spot in the 100-meter breaststroke with a 1:04.50, only 0.06 off of the Swedish record.

Korstanje barely made it into the 50-meter butterfly finals that evening, but it was Hansson’s 1:04.17 in the 100-meter breaststroke semifinals that really stood out. Finishing in second place to post a new Swedish record and a personal best, Hansson made the best of a tight race to once again prove her dominance of breaststroke and set up an exciting finals session the following night. Held found his first gold medal of the meet, anchoring the 4x200 freestyle relay in 1:42.21 to give the United States another first-place finish.

The penultimate prelims session saw another top-five finish from Held, who posted a 46.72 in the 100-meter freestyle to make it into semifinals. That evening, Held closed out the 4x50-meter freestyle relay to give the United States yet another relay medal and a new American record. Hansson lowered her national record yet again, this time posting an incredible 1:03.50 to take the silver medal.

In the 200-meter breaststroke heats the following morning, Hansson finished second by three-quarters of a second. Berkoff made her final two appearances of the meet that day, swimming in both prelims and finals in the 4x50 freestyle relay to help the Americans to a first-place finish ahead of Sweden and the Netherlands. Held finished with another silver in the 100-meter freestyle, posting a 45.63 to round out an incredible meet for the NC State alum.

Culture Editor

I am a first-year student studying biology with a minor in technical and scientific communication. I joined Technician as a correspondent in August 2020, and I am currently the Culture Editor.