Eight swimmers from the 40-member Yosemite Marlins Swim Club made a huge splash with their first appearance at the Central California Section Junior Olympics meet Feb. 14 in Bakersfield a meet that draws some of the fastest young swimmers from Central California and Nevada.
The eight Marlin swimmers who qualified for the event Collin Latour, Bennie Mace, Theo Tuggle, Parker Jones, Coury Jones, Cora Lowery, Claire Tuggle and Max Tuggle all posted personal best times in their events.
Team member Claire Tuggle, 9, medaled in all seven events she entered, with three of her times giving her the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 ranking for her age group in the nation.
Tuggle placed first in the 100 meter freestyle (59.92), second in the 200 meter freestyle (2:11.78), second in the 100 individual medley (1:11.97), second in the 50 free (28.07), second in the 100 backstroke (1:13.26), second in the 200 IM (2:30.11), and second in the 50 butterfly (31.54).
Tuggle's time in the 100 freestyle earned her the No. 1 ranking in the country for a nine-year-old. Her time in the 200 freestyle has placed her at No. 2 in the country for that event, and she is ranked No. 4 nationally in the 200 IM.
Tuggle, a fourth grader at Oakhurst Elementary School, started swimming recreational at age six, and competitively a year and a half ago. Her times at Bakersfield qualified her for the Far Western Swim Meet in April in Morgan Hill an event that will feature some of the fastest swimmers on the west coast.
"I love swimming and the meet was super fun," Tuggle said with a smile. "I love my teammates and I love my coaches everyone should try it."
Another Tuggle swimmer, Theo, 12, placed in the top top 16 in all seven of his events at the meet and earned three medals. He was sixth in the 50 butterfly (30.25), and eighth in both the 50 backstroke (33.06) and the 100 butterfly (1:09.28).
A third Tuggle, brother Max, 6, was the youngest swimmer in the meet.
Two more Marlin swimmers, Coury Jones, 10, and Collin La Tour, 14, finished in the top 16 of their events in the morning which qualified them to return for the afternoon finals.
Jones placed in the top 16 with a 2:27.01 in the 200 freestyle, 1:21.34 in the 100 butterfly, 1:09.74 in the 100 free and 34.98 in the 50 fly. La Tour finished in the top 16 with a 1:13.64 in the 100 breaststroke.
Theo Tuggle and Coury Jones hope to qualify for the Far Westerns Swim Meet between now and April.
"I knew we were going to have some of our swimmers make the cuts necessary to qualify for this meet because they have been working so hard since November," head coach Tammy Kudela said. "But I was amazed at how fast these kids actually swam at this meet."
Kudela said her swimmers cut their best times in their events by two, five, and even 10 seconds not just by a few tenths of a second.
"I can't wait to see how many more of our swimmers are going to make the qualifying cuts for the long course Junior Olympics this summer," Kudela said.
Since being established in 1990, the Mariposa Marlins Swim Team has been a summer recreational swim club serving children from Mountain Area communities. This past November, the team was reorganized under the name Yosemite Marlins Swim Club and was approved as a year-round club by the national governing body of competitive swimming, USA Swimming.
For more information about joining the team or upcoming meets, contact Marlin head coach Tammy Kudela at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the team on-line at yosemitemarlinsswimcub.com.