Berkoff Heads to NCAAs

Freshman Standout to Swim Backstroke

David Berkoff leaves for the NCAA Swimming Championships on Tuesday, and if he maintains the form he displayed near the end of the season, it's quite possible that he'll take of the best swimmers in the world "downtown."

"David is one of the most talented swimmers I have ever seen," Assistant Coach Ken Oberg said. "With a little more work, he could be one of the best in the world. He's already one of the best in the country."

Berkoff performance at the Eastern Seaboard Championships showed that Oberg's expectations are hardly unfounded.

The freshman led the Crimson in individual scoring at the Easterns with 53 points, finishing fourth overall as Harvard raced to a 148-point victory over Princeton.

He finished first in the 200-meter individual medley, third in the 200-meter backstroke, and second in the 100-meter backstroke.

And the only problem keeping him from having more "awesome performances" appears close to a solution.

"I didn't work as hard as I should have," Berkoff admitted. "In high school I got away with natural ability. In college it's different. I plan on training a lot more next year. I missed a lot of workouts and that really hurt me near the end of the season."

Late Bloomer

Berkoff first began to shine in his senior year at Penn Charter High School, in Philadelphia. "I was a late bloomer -- my senior year was my best by far I placed in the nationals in the 100 backstroke."

"I think I could eventually be one of the best, he admitted reluctantly "I have to get it into my head that I want be one of the best."

His teammates agree, "He definitely had a good year. Co-Captain Brian Groukau said, "He's phenomenal. By the end of his four years he'll have made quite an impact on Harvard swimming. He's super team player, and had a lot of us looking at his starts earlier in the season. I really have the utmost confidence he'll be one of the best in the world once he adjusts to Harvard swimming."

Berkoff swims the 100 and 200-meter backstrokes, and the 200 and 400 IAM. "The 100 backstroke is my best event. With more training I'd be better in a longer race," he said.

The freshman has adjusted well not only to swimming, but also to the swim team. "The camaraderie on the team really impressed me. It's one of the things that keeps me sane, and it was a big factor in my choosing Harvard."

As Berkoff heads to the NCAAs, he is aware of the competition he will face. "It's probably the fastest meet in the world," he said. "I feel I can place in the top 16--where, I don't know."

But whatever happens at the nationals this year, you can be confident that David Berkoff will be back in the future.