Carson Foster Carrying Momentum into Blazing Sophomore Surge for Texas

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Carson Foster -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Carson Foster Carrying Momentum into Blazing Sophomore Surge for Texas

In a gut-wrenching three days at Olympic Trials, Carson Foster narrowly missed making the Olympic team twice. First, he was the top qualifier in the 400-meter IM and led for most of the final, only for Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland to speed past him down the stretch. The next day, Foster took ninth in the 200 free semifinals, got a reprieve into the final after a scratch and then ended up eight in the final where six swimmers would be selected for relay duty in Tokyo. Foster missed by a half-second in the 400 IM and then just 0.18 in the 200 free.

Then, on the eve of the Tokyo Games, Foster made headlines by a swimming a 4:08.46 in the 400 IM, crushing his best time from Trials by two seconds. Moreover, that time stood up as the world’s fastest, almost a second clear of Kalisz’s gold-medal-winning mark. Sure, Foster was swimming at a low-pressure sectionals meet with little competition, but seeing what he was capable of inspired him as he prepared to jump into the new season.

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Carson Foster during the 2020-21 season — Photo Courtesy: Texas Athletics

After watching the Olympic final and seeing his time had been quicker, Foster said, “I don’t think I’ve ever been more motivated than I was when I woke up this morning.”

Now, Foster has carried that momentum into his sophomore season at the University of Texas. Most recently, Foster exploded in a dual meet against Virginia. Among his performances, he posted a 3:40.48 in the 400-yard IM that is believed to be the quickest dual meet time ever. Only five men beat that time in last season’s NCAA final. He also won the 200 fly against UVA, and a day later, he swam a 1:42.16 in the 200 back to break a pool record held for 16 years by Ryan Lochte.

“I definitely haven’t lost any of that fire I had at the end of the summer,” Foster said. “I honestly think it’s even more now. I’ve been riding the momentum from the past summer into this season. I’ve got big goals heading into the shortened Olympic cycle, and I feel I’m swimming with some momentum and confidence.”

The Trials disappointment and late summer surge has not added additional pressure for his sophomore campaign. Foster actually thinks the opposite, that he is swimming more freely and with a more positive mindset without the specter of an upcoming Olympic Trials.

“I put so much pressure on myself in so many ways last year,” he said. “I obviously had a huge goal to make the Olympic team which weighed heavily on me freshman year. Experiencing the disappointment in Omaha and then bouncing back the way I did this summer really put things in perspective. The lessons from this summer have truly impacted my swimming so positively. I’m so lucky to have the coaches, teammates, and loved ones in my life because they are the reason I was able to bounce back the way I did to use my experience as a jumpstart to my career instead of a setback.”

The 20-year-old is the central star for the Texas Longhorns in this collegiate season alongside Olympian and NCAA runnerup Drew Kibler as the team goes for a second-straight national title and a 16th in the career of retired-then-unretired Texas men’s coach Eddie Reese. And individually Foster will have some unfinished business at the NCAA level as well: he swam a 3:35.27 in the 400 IM in October 2020 that made him the second-fastest performer ever in the event, and he qualified first into the final of that event at the NCAA Championships and even held a lead of more than a second with 100 yards to go.

However, Foster could not hold that lead as Florida junior Bobby Finke out-split him on the freestyle leg by more than 2.5 seconds. Maybe we view that swim in a different light after watching Finke pull the same comeback on the world’s best distance swimmers at the Olympics, but Foster will certainly be hungry to earn his first individual NCAA title. He will also be a title contender, although not the favorite, in the 200 IM and 200 back, particularly with Shaine Casas no longer competing in the NCAA.

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Carson Foster dives off the blocks at U.S. Olympic Trials — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Among those sure to be competing with Foster in the 400 IM final is his older brother, Texas junior Jake, who put up a quick 1:55.91 200 breast against Virginia last weekend. “Jake and I make each other better. He’s my best friend and best training partner,” Carson said. “I always knew I wanted to go to college with him and continue to train together because I knew he made me into the swimmer I am, and I feel like I help him as well.”

Make no mistake, Carson’s attention is on performing at the NCAA Championships and then, one month later, at the U.S. World Championship Trials in Greensboro, N.C., where he hopes to cap off his rebound by securing a spot on the American team bound for Fukuoka, Japan. He has had that plan in his head ever since swimming that long course 4:08 in July. But his debut on a No. 1 senior-level national team will come sooner, when he swims at the Short Course World Championships in December in Abu Dhabi. Foster will have the 200 and 400 IM on his agenda for that meet, and his competition is likely to include Japanese star Daiya Seto.

Many college swimmers turn down the opportunity to attend Short Course Worlds given its timing smack in the middle of the season, but for Foster, the chance was too good to pass up — and his goals no less lofty than usual.

“I decided to go to Short Course Worlds because I feel like it will give me valuable international experience moving forward into the next cycle,” he said. “It’s hard for me to gauge time goals since I don’t train or race short course meters often. But definitely want to bring home some medals for Team USA. Hopefully a gold!”

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Andrew Lardieri

    Fun fact: Carson Foster and Drew Kibler live together at the University of Texas.

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