How Carson Foster and Texas Men Stack Up in Pursuit of Another NCAA Title

Carson Foster of United States competes in the 200m Individual Medley Men Final during the FINA Swimming Short Course World Championships at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Melbourne, Australia, December 13th, 2022. Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Carson Foster -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

How Carson Foster and Texas Men Stack Up in Pursuit of Another NCAA Title

In his first two years swimming for the University of Texas, Carson Foster has yet to win an individual NCAA title. He came painfully close as a freshman, leading wire-to-wire in the 400 IM final before Bobby Finke exploded on the freestyle leg to pull ahead (the same move Finke would pull in a pair of distance freestyle Olympic finals months later). Foster also placed fourth in the 200 IM and sixth in the 200 backstroke in 2021 as the Longhorns won their record-extending 15th national team title.

One year later, Foster exploded in the 400 IM prelims and swam a time of 3:33.79, less than four tenths off the American and NCAA records, but that evening, he faltered badly, swimming two seconds slower as Hugo Gonzalez won the final in the fastest time in history while Leon Marchand took second. Foster later chalked up his 400 IM performance to “immaturity.” The meet also included a second-place result in the 200 back, and he was sixth in the 200 IM.

Ironically, Foster’s best chance at a title in 2023 will come in an event he has never before raced at the collegiate championships. In a 500 freestyle time trial in practice in November, Foster posted a time of 4:09.43, which is quicker than any swimmer in the country besides Marchand (who is unlikely to race the event at NCAAs). In the 200 butterfly, Foster ranks third nationally at 1:40.83 behind Marchand and his Arizona State teammate Alex Colson. The 200 fly opens up significantly compared to last season with Trenton Julian and Nick Albiero having exhausted their eligibility and Georgia’s Luca Urlando out for the season with injury, so Foster might opt for the 200 fly instead of the 200 back on the final day of the meet.

Coming off an enormous 2022 summer season when he won a pair of World Championship silver medals in the IM events, Foster will get his points, with or without an individual title. So will Caspar Corbeau, the senior from the Netherlands who placed second in the 100 breaststroke, sixth in the 200 breast and 13th in the 200 IM last season before qualifying for the World Championships final in the 200-meter breast. In addition, Carson’s older brother Jake Foster was a finalist in both IM events last year and a B-finalist in the 200 breast, and David Johnston was top-eight in the 500 free, 400 IM and 1650 free last season.

Beyond Johnston, Texas should load up on points in the longer freestyle races. Luke Hobson finished third in the 500 free in 2022 before winning a long course U.S. national title in the 200-meter free, and Coby Carrozza was an alternate for the U.S. men’s 800 free relay at the World Championships. Freshman Alec Enyeart currently ranks second in the country in the mile and just outside the top-10 in the 500 free.

That’s the good news for Longhorns fans, an abundance of point-scoring potential in just over half the events on the program, plus a favored group in the 800 free relay and likely some A-final points in diving. The problem? Texas is perilously weak in the remaining events, and the lack of depth could restrict the scoring potential of the remaining four relays.

Whether Carson Foster opts for the 200 back or 200 fly, it’s unlikely that Texas will get any other points in backstroke or butterfly the entire meet. With Anthony Grimm and Zac Van Zandt no longer part of the Longhorns’ roster, Foster has been tapped for backstroke duty on both medley relays for most of the season. Corbeau might have to handle butterfly duties at NCAA Championships and leave breaststroke to either Jake Foster or graduate transfer Will Chan, hardly poor options but not ideal considering Corbeau is truly elite in his primary stroke.

As for sprint freestyle, Danny Krueger placed eighth in the 100 free at last season’s NCAAs and 18th in the 50 free, but with the departures of Drew Kibler and Cameron Auchinachie, Krueger becomes a lock to anchor both medley relays. Krueger has put together a fine career at Texas, and a lot will be on his shoulders in his final collegiate meet. Moreover, Krueger and Corbeau return to the Longhorns’ sprint relays, but the likes of Hobson, Chan and Peter Larson will have to fill the remaining spots, which will make defending last season’s 400 free relay title nearly impossible.

Over the course of three-and-a-half days in Minneapolis in March, Texas will look like the most dominant program in the country in certain events but nearly invisible in other events — all while contending with well-rounded Cal and Arizona State squads. But Eddie Reese and Wyatt Collins always put their men in position to swim fast at the end of the season, and the Longhorns have a track record that is self-explanatory: eight consecutive top-two finishes, 13 top-two placements in the last 14 meets and those aforementioned 15 national titles. This might not be their strongest team ever, but Texas will surely be in the mix.

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