Claire Tuggle turned 11 on July 8, but not before she smashed three more USA Swimming National Age Group (NAG) records.
In April, Tuggle, a member of the Yosemite Marlins’ Swim Team, set two national age group ‘short’ course records (200 and 500 yard freestyle) in the 10-and-under division at the USA Far Western Short Course Championships meet in Morgan Hill.
After the ‘short’ course season, Tuggle entered the ‘long’ course season with less than three months and four meets to attempt to break any long course records before she aged up. A daunting task as she had no championship meets on her schedule.
Record No. 3: at the Mike Snyder Memorial Meet May 29-31, her first meet after setting the short course records, Tuggle was able to race in events that combined all swimmers 12 and under. With a desire to beat her friend Jordan Gruce, who is 12 and swims for Clovis, the race was on.
Coming into the final day of the meet, Tuggle had won the 400 meter free and Gruce had won the 100 meter free. That would make the 200 free the tie breaker for the two girls. The first 150 meters the girls stayed close together, but on the last 50, Tuggle pulled ahead finishing a second before Gruce for a winning time of 2:16.30.
After shaking hands and exiting the pool, the coaches quickly realized Tuggle had just broken current Olympian Elizabeth Bieisel’s NAG record. When Coach Tammy Kudela, informed her swimmer, Tuggle replied, “what? I am not even wearing my fast suit.”
Record No. 4: Tuggle entered her next meet, the Fresno Dolphins Modified Invitational, two weeks later. The first swim of the meet was the the 400 meter free on June 19. As luck would have it, the event was seeded for 10 and over, again allowing Tuggle to race against older swimmers - much older swimmers.
Tuggle swam in the fastest heat and the swimmer to beat was 19-year-old Casey Kenneman from Fresno State. After a talk with her coach, Tuggle committed to not backing off the older swimmers which had overwhelmed her in past meets. For the first 200 meters, she stayed at Kenneman’s hip.
Turning into the third 100, Tuggle began to pick up her pace slowly gaining on Kenneman. By 350 meters Tuggle had taken the lead and then, using her amazing endurance, powerful kick, and determination, increased her lead on the last 50 coming in with a final time of 4:37.47, two full seconds ahead of Kenneman, and destroying yet another of Biesel’s records by five full seconds.
Record No. 5: The 100 free record loomed just outside of Tuggle’s grasp as she began the 2015 Clovis Summer Slam Age group meet on June 26. In this meet, she would be swimming exclusively against 10 and unders but due to the round robin meet format would have two opportunities to swim the 100 free.
The NAG record going into this meet was a 1:02.11 and her current best time was 1:03.44. In her first round, Tuggle swam a 1:02.14 coming just three hundredths of a second short of the record. Determined that was not going to happen again, Tuggle left it all in the pool on round two, swimming a 1:01.86 which came in eight seconds ahead of the next swimmer and taking down another Olympian, Lia Neal’s NAG record.
Tuggle has now aged up to 11-12, leaving a large number of records in her wake - Six Central California Swim League short course records, seven Central California Swim League long course records, one Western Zone Meet Record, two NAG short course records, and three NAG long course records.
Due to her times, there are already many in the swim community across the country that talk about her potential as a future Olympian, but Tuggle does not let that interfere with the present.
“I’m focusing on being competitive as an 11-12 year-old swimmer and hoping to make the Junior National time cuts over the next two years,” Tuggle said.
Marlins Head Coach Tammy Kudela credits Tuggle’s solid support system, excellent mechanical skills, and her competitive spirit as major factors in her success.
Tuggle is the daughter of Todd and Jules Tuggle of Oakhurst, and her two brothers, Theo, 14, and Max, 8, are also outstanding swimmers on the Marlin’s team. Jules coaches the Marlins with Kudela.
Yosemite Marlins Swim Club
The nonprofit Yosemite Marlins Swim Club is owned by Yosemite Unified School District and sanctioned by USA Swimming, which is the governing body for competitive swimming associated with the U.S. Olympic team.
The team is a year-round competitive swim team offering high quality, professional coaching and technique instruction for all ages and abilities. The goal of the program is to provide every team member an opportunity to improve swimming skills and achieve success at his or her level of ability.
All of the Marlin coaches, as members of the American Swimming Coaches Association, have access to the most comprehensive training and certification program for youth coaches.