Mills College Swimmer Melissa Berkay Sets World Record

Oakland, CA–August 18, 2016

The Mercury News reported today, that Melissa Berkay, a 25 year-old junior at Mills College set a world record for crossing the Catalina Channel. She also became the first American swimmer to ever cross the 20.2 mile Channel while swimming in the butterfly stroke only. Berkay completed the open water swim from Santa Catalina Island to Rancho Palos Verdes in Southern California in 12 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds on August 11.

Melissa is no stranger to tough challenges. Due to unforeseen circumstances, she had to put her education on hold for four years, enduring a difficult period of hardship and homelessness. She really didn’t think she had a future, but that all changed when Head Swim Coach Neil Virtue recognized her potential and helped facilitate her transfer to Mills College last semester.

Inspired by Mills’ commitment to social justice, Melissa wanted to do something to give back to the people who helped her when she needed it the most. So, Melissa decided to use her down time over the summer to organize the swim to raise money for non-profit organizations that aid the homeless and affordable housing.

Melissa is not only a great athlete, she’s a strong academic who was recently selected for the Scholar All-America Team for achieving a GPA of 3.5 or higher and for placing in the top 16 in the NCAA Division III championships.

“Twenty miles in open water, with only a butterfly stroke is not easy,” said Virtue. “But if anyone was capable of accomplishing a huge feat like this, it would be her.” 

Learn more about Melissa’s marathon swim to benefit the homeless: