It’s been two decades since a male swimmer 18 years old or younger has made the USA Olympic Team, but there’s a small squad of talented up-and-comers who are looking to change that this year, and one of the biggest names in that group is 18 year-old Carson Foster.
Foster first started generating headlines back in 2012, when he broke a National Age Group record as a ten year-old. Four years later, he was one of two 14 year-old boys to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials, where he finished 43rd out of 92 in the 400 IM. He’s been on a roll ever since then, representing the USA at Junior Worlds and Junior Pan Pacs, knocking down national age group records and national high school records, and hanging with the veterans in some of the toughest races at Nationals and in the Pro Series.
Rumors started circulating last year that Foster was planning on graduating high school early and possibly moving to Austin, Texas, to train with the University of Texas Longhorns, to whom he verbally committed nearly two years ago as a high school sophomore.
SwimSwam caught up with Foster to ask him exactly what was going on with his education and his training between now and Omaha. Sure enough, Foster says that he is, in fact, graduating from high school early, with his last day of class coming on the Monday before the U.S. Open started. He was exempt from final exams due to having straight A’s.
Foster tells us that he first started considering graduating early back during sophomore year. He had been attending St. Xavier, but the private school’s attendance policies conflicted with Foster’s absences for events like the World Cup. After he transferred to to Cincinnati Sycamore, a public school, his guidance counselor told him that he had enough credits to graduate early if he chose to do so.
At first, he didn’t think it was necessary, but after a big summer of 2018, in which he earned four gold medals at Junior Pan Pacs, he reconsidered his plans, and decided that he had enough of a shot at making the US Olympic Team that it would be worth it to graduate a semester and not have to worry about school for the six months leading up to Olympic Trials.
Initially, he contemplating leaving home after graduation and heading to Texas to train, but after talking with his parents, Texas coaches Eddie Reese and Wyatt Collins, and Ken Heis, head coach of Foster’s club team, the Mason Manta Rays, Foster decided that it would make more sense to stay at home and stick with what was already working.
“We decided that what we’re doing now is working, and I feel most comfortable staying at home with my parents, not doing the big lifestyle change of going to college, and keeping everything the same with my training, and Eddie and Wyatt were super supportive with my decision-making and supported me 100%.”
The decision means no Ohio High School State Championship meet for Foster after he set the National High School Record at last year’s meet in the 200 yard free.
While he’ll be operating out of home as a “home base,” Foster’s plans for the spring includes lots of travel, including trips to the Olympic Training Center in January and at least one another time, and another trip with some other national and junior national team members. Part of the reason for the travel is to find opportunities to train long course. The Manta Rays’ home pool isn’t 50m, so Foster and the rest of the Rays train in either 25 yards or 25 meter configuration for most of the year, only having regular access to a 50m pool during the summer.
Foster will also take the spring to decide exactly which events he’ll swim at Olympic Trials, explaining that this past summer’s busy junior World schedule has him thinking about paring down his lineup a bit, but that the IMs are definitely a focus. Last season, Foster made the senior National Team in both the 200 IM and the 400 IM, and his 1:46.10 anchor leg on the USA’s junior world record setting 4×200 relay at Junior Worlds puts him into the conversation for a spot on the Olympic 4×200 team, as well.
While nothing is ever guaranteed in swimming, Foster’s experience in having a previous Olympic Trials under his belt, ability to focus on training for the next six months, and versatility has him set up well, along with other 18&U stars like Luca Urlando, to become one of the youngest men to make a US Olympic Team in twenty years.