SAN ANTONIO – Swimmers around the nation were forced to grapple with a lot of uncertainty in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the 2020 Olympics postponed to this coming summer and most college-level programs still manufacturing shortened schedules, competition outside of practice has been hard to come by.
So with coronavirus cases still mounting, USA Swimming decided to host their annual U.S. Open national meet in multiple pools across the country. San Antonio was selected as one of nine host sites, and as the second day of competition began at Bill Walker Pool, a handful of talented Texas swimmers took advantage of a chance to test their mettle.
Texas Longhorn alumna Madisyn Cox led the charge in the women’s session. The 10-time All-American and two-time Big XII Swimmer of the Year posted an impressive 2:10.49 in the 200 meter Individual Medley. That time currently ranks as the best in the nation in that event.
“It felt good,” Cox said after the race. “It honestly took me a little time to get my mind around it, that we were racing again, that this was it. I was racing again at a competition, and not even just a competition, a U.S. Open! But it felt good to race again, get back in the water, put a fast suit on and have those pre-race jitters. It really felt solid. I was happy to have a teammate in the race. Kelly Pash was right next to me. I’ve trained with her a lot over the past two years, and it was really nice having her as a point of reference.”
Joanna Evans won the 400 meter Freestyle in 4:11.28, while Kyanh Truong posted a 26.16 to top the 50 meter Freestyle standings.
Instead of alternating between men’s and women’s events in a single session, the men took the pool for their own separate session roughly an hour after the end of the women’s final race. Excitement rose for a showdown in the 200 meter Individual Medley between a pair of brothers who have taken the swimming world by storm: Carson and Jacob Foster. The younger of the two, Carson, cruised to a convincing victory in 1:59.82. He was the only swimmer in San Antonio’s portion of the meet to post a time under two minutes. The win comes a little under a month after he shattered Cal great Andrew Seliskar’s 400 yard Individual Medley National Age Group record by two full seconds.
“It’s great racing my brother, and I executed well,” Foster said. “This meet is all about getting ready and honing in on [the Texas] Invite coming up, so we didn’t do too much rest for this week. I’m just practicing swimming long course. Some of my splits were a little slower than what my best time is, but that was expected. Overall, I’m happy with it.”
Longhorns teammates Coby Carrozza (3:54.34) and Daniel Krueger (23.25) won the 400 meter Freestyle and 50 meter Freestyle respectively.
The usual roar of the crowd was missing from a meet of this caliber. Spectators were limited and socially distant in the stands, while athletes were properly spread out on deck and masked the vast majority of the time. The difference in atmosphere was palpable, but swimmers have steadily adapted to their new environment.
“We’ve had some kind of racing back in Austin," Cox explained. “Those had no spectators at all, and a lot of those races are just in practice. This is better than that. There’s someone up there, and more than that, I’m just thankful to have [Texas women’s head coach] Carol [Capitani] cheering me on. We had a really small group this morning, but I knew they were there and I knew they were supporting me.”
“I just think it’s so awesome that we get to race,” Pash said. “It is hard not having as many people on deck, looking into the stands and not seeing as many people there, but I just feel so lucky that we’re able to swim right now.”
“Without the crowd, you just have to rely on your teammates a lot more,” Krueger detailed. “It’s so great to have such an amazing team and an amazing support staff at Texas. It’s just been a really great experience being able to race with those guys and represent the University of Texas.”
“I enjoy getting up and swimming with a bunch of Texas guys. It’s where I’m most comfortable,” Texas junior Drew Kibler said. “[The 400 meter Freestyle] was a pretty painful swim to be honest, tough to get through. I guess that’s kind of where we are in training right now. Obviously, we’re not shaved or anything, so the biggest thing I want to get is information on how to swim long course again.”
A number of San Antonio natives also made their mark this afternoon in exhibition swims, most representing the Alamo Area Aquatic Association. Jada Scott, Meredith Holcomb, Sonia Vaishnani, Morgan Bartley, Mikayla Moore, Elsa Musselman, Luke Prior and Jackson Stallworth all posted impressive times.