NC State Wins First-Ever NCAA Swimming Title With Relay Shuffle, Record-Breaking Swim

Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

Relays have been the cornerstone of the NC State swimming program for years.

The Wolfpack often enjoy a strong start to the NCAA championships by a strong showing in the meet-opening 800-yard freestyle relay. The men’s team has won the event in the past and the women generally have a good showing, but haven’t won.

This year, NC State coach Braden Holloway turned the tables on his relays, and it led to the Wolfpack claiming their first women’s swimming event title in program history.

But it wasn’t the 800 free relay — far from it as it would turn out.

Seeing that there was no chance of winning the opening 800 free relay, Holloway decided to stack his other relays.

It was definitely a gamble because the Wolfpack easily could have scored in the 800 free relay. But in stead, they finished 17th, which also was last of the competitors.

But in one night, the Wolfpack went from the only relay not to score to the team’s first event championship in program history — and did so in record-breaking fashion.

The 400 medley relay team of Katharine Berkoff (50.07), Sophie Hansson (57.01), Kylee Alons (49.29) and Julia Poole (48.22) swam a 3:24.59 to break the NCAA record set in 2018 by Stanford.


Julia Poole. Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

The quartet erupted with emotion as the No. 1 next to NC State was shown on the scoreboard, something no NC State women’s swimmer had ever seen before at the NCAA championships.

Poole was one of the swimmers who was switched onto the 400 medley relay when Holloway shook things up.

“I wasn’t even supposed to be on this relay, so I am ecstatic,” Poole said

NC State also became the first ACC team to win a national title in the event.

It was a long time coming for the Wolfpack, which have had several strong relays in recent years that have included swimmers like Ky-lee Perry and Elise Haan.

They helped pave the way for elite relays at NC State. The current squad took the next step.

Berkoff’s lead leg was a 50.07, the fastest split of her career.

Hansson’s 57.01 breaststroke split built up a body-length lead Alons put together an 49.29 butterfly leg to send Poole into the water with a significant lead. She swam a 48.22 freestyle that was more than enough to hold off any other contenders and secure the victory.

“I hit the wall and I have never had so much emotion in my whole life. I did it for the (team),” Poole said. “I am so proud of these ladies and the work they have done, and I am so glad they gave me a lead. I never thought this would happen.”

Now it has finally happened. This quartet will forever be the first NCAA swimming title for the Wolfpack.

It took the rise of a program, a crafty coach taking a risk and an epic swim by all four members of the relay.

NC State is on the title board, and the second title might not be too far away.