By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, August 9, 2017
The sport of competitive swimming seems to run deep within families. Many times, one sibling will take up swimming and join a swim team because of an older sibling; other times, children begin swimming because a parent was an avid swimmer. Of course, this isn’t always the case… but in my experience, it rings true: I began swimming thirty years ago because my sister was a swimmer before me. And she began swimming because my father was a high school swimmer back in the day. And so on.
Scanning heat sheets, it’s easy to find those “swim families.” Those large contingent of different aged swimmers all having the same last names, all cheering for each other, and who all look vaguely like each other. In my own past, I remember the four Vanderkaay brothers. Hailing from Michigan, like me. The Vanderkaays seemed like one of those long-lasting, legendary families from Game of Thrones. They dominated the age group, high school, and collegiate swimming scene for decades. More recently, I’m reminded of the Litherland triplets, who wowed swim fans and the sports media last summer at the Omaha Trials.
This week at the 2017 Speedo Junior Nationals in East Meadow, New York, another swimming family takes on the limelight: the Fosters, from Mason Manta Rays in Ohio. Three Fosters take to the competition pool this week, and one of them — the youngest — has already earned a Junior National title last night.
There’s Hannah, 17, an Olympic Trials qualifier and a talented IMer, freestyler, and breaststroker. Then there’s Jake, 16, an excellent breaststroker and IMer. And then there’s Carson, one of the nation’s best backstrokers at just 15 years-old. All three can seemingly swim anything; all three are competing this week at Speedo Junior Nationals.
Here’s another thing about swim families: sometimes there is some friendly, fun inter-family competition. I used to race my sister whenever I could: In ponds, rivers, lakes, and in the competition pool. My father and I would race each other, too. I remember watching some of the Vanderkaays race each other, which was always fun to watch.
This week, two of the Fosters — the brothers — have that fun, family racing opportunity: Jake and Carson Foster face-off in the men’s 200-meter IM. And for me, this is the week’s Can’t Miss Race.
The brothers are seeded 1-2. Both have been swimming well this meet already; Carson won the 200-meter butterfly and his brother placed 6th. Both are well-rounded swimmers; though Jake is, for now, the better 400 IMer, you can be sure that the younger Carson will be aiming for that 200 IM.
The other fascinating thing about this family and these two brothers are the ages: Carson is just 15. Jake is just 16. Not only are both gaining valuable experience by racing the nation’s elite swimmers this week, but they both gain valuable racing experience by racing each other every single day.
In three years, it’s entirely possible that this family could have a strong showing at the 2020 Olympic Trials, like the Litherlands or the Vanderkaays have before. Often with swim families, it is more about support rather than competition. As it should be. Siblings supporting siblings, like a built-in cheering and support section.
And yet, from experience, I know that when stepping on the blocks, there’s no-one more fun to race than someone with your same last name.
Don’t miss this upcoming 200 IM. It’s fun, and it’ll be an excellent race between two of the nation’s best swimmers… who just also happen to be brothers.