Texas Men Can Use Big-12 Championships to Figure Out NCAA Relay Solutions

Texas senior Caspar Corbeau -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Texas Men Can Use Big-12 Championships to Figure Out NCAA Relay Solutions

Winning conference titles has never been a problem for the University of Texas men. The Longhorns have won 26 consecutive Big-12 titles and 43 consecutive conference meets overall, a streak dating back to Texas’ time in the now-defunct Southwest Conference. The 2022-23 season marks the 11th year of the current iteration of the Big-12, which features only three men’s swimming and diving teams: Texas, Texas Christian and West Virginia.

Without having elite competition at the conference meet, Texas head coach Eddie Reese has been known to gear his team’s training toward the NCAA Championships, and Texas is known for posting some of the country’s largest time drops at the national meet. This year, however, Texas needs to use its conference meet to test out a strategy for the national meet.

The Longhorns remain a powerhouse team, with junior Carson Foster back in the mix after a breakout summer where he won silver medals at the World Championships in the 400-meter IM and 200-meter IM. Breaststroker Caspar Corbeau, freestyler Luke Hobson, distance and 400 IM specialist David Johnston, sprinter Danny Krueger and Carson’s older brother Jake Foster are other returning A-finalists from last year. But the Longhorns’ relay lineups have been gutted, with Drew KiblerCameron Auchinachie, Anthony Grimm, Alvin Jiang and Zac Van Zandt all departed from the roster. Excluding the 800 free relay, Corbeau and Krueger are the only returning relay swimmers from last season.

A big relay burden will undoubtedly fall upon those two swimmers in 2023, with both men a virtual lock for spots on all four sprint relays — but for Corbeau, maybe not where you would expect. Corbeau was the runnerup in the 100 breast last season and a finalist in the 200-meter breast at the World Championships in June, but he could end up on the butterfly leg on the medley relays, particularly the 200 medley relay.

Texas has transfer Will Chan as well as Jake Foster as possibilities for moving into the breaststroke spot to replace Corbeau. Chan split 23.00 on Michigan’s 200 medley relay at last year’s NCAA Championships, which was the sixth-fastest split in the entire field. Corbeau had the fastest split (22.55), but the drop-off would likely be more on the butterfly leg from Corbeau to a swimmer like Cole Crane or Sam Artmann. Meanwhile, the elder Foster brother has posted the best sprint breaststroke times of his career this year, including a 51.85 in the 100 breast at Texas’ dual meet against NC State last month.

As for the backstroke leg, a perfect fit would be future Longhorn Will Modglin, who last weekend split 20.87 leading off a 200 medley relay and clocked 45.53 in the 100 back at his high school conference meet. One year from now, Modglin likely will occupy that spot for Texas. But for now, the best option is probably Carson Foster, almost exclusively a 200-and-up swimmer in the past but now moonlighting as a sprint backstroker. Foster’s lifetime best in the 100 back is 45.82, a time established at a dual meet this fall, but Texas probably needs a 45-low just to remain in the top-eight in this relay.

For the sprint freestyle relays, Hobson and Peter Larson are probable additions to both while Coby Carrozza, an 800-meter free relay alternate for the United States at the most recent World Championships, is better suited to the 200 and up. Chan could make an impact on the 200 free relay with his history of 19-low splits. Perhaps a lesser-known swimmer could emerge as a real possibility at the Big-12 meet and at least provide some depth heading into NCAAs.

At a pre-meet press conference Monday, Reese was asked about his team’s best events, and he listed off the freestyle events 200 yards and up, the 200 breaststroke and the individual medleys. Indeed, it would be stunning if the Longhorns do not clean up in those races next month in Minneapolis. But to make a credible title run, sprint points are a must, and entering the Big-12 Championships, the situation for Texas is murky at best.

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