OAKHURST – Claire Tuggle, 10, is a distinguished athlete who recently decimated some long-standing national speed records for her age group while competing with local Yosemite Marlins Swim Club (YMSC) under Coach Tammy Kudela.
On Thursday, Apr. 9, Claire made history at the 2015 Far Western Championships.
“Last week I broke the national record in the 200 and 500 free,” Claire explains. “When I saw my time on the board, I was shocked. I was most proud of the 200 time because I had been trying to break two minutes for a long time.”
Claire dropped 3.6 seconds in the 200 free, according to SwimSwam, for a total of 1:58.20. Tuggle’s previous best time in the 200 was 2:01:79. Once her score from Apr. 9 is confirmed, it betters the national record of 1:59:00 set in 2008.
In the 500 free finals at the Far Western, Claire achieved 5:13.74, taking almost three seconds off the national record set in 2005. Claire dropped her time more than 8 seconds from her previous best in that swim, back in January. The Far Western competition takes the fastest kids in Colorado and west all the way to Hawaii.
Currently in the 5th grade at Oakhurst Elementary School, Claire’s favorite subject is PE. She spends a lot of time swimming, and a couple of years ago could regularly be seen at various pools in the area, sporting a life-size, realistic-looking mermaid tail. The tail was breathtaking.
“I got my mermaid tail for my 9th birthday,” remembers Claire. “It was a sparkly blue tail. The first time I used it, my dad had to carry me out to the pool and set me in the water. When I put it on, I felt like someone completely different. I felt like I was a mermaid.”
Now that the little mermaid has blossomed into a full-blown, fierce competitor, Claire keeps her pre-swim routine simple, sans-tail.
“When I get to the blocks, I have a few rituals. First, I splash myself. Then I stretch myself and jump up and down. Also, I visualize myself diving far out.”
The young swimmer is a singular sensation, though Claire makes it clear that she’s all about the teamwork.
“My swim group has four girls in it: Parker, Coury and Mackenzie. They make all the hard work fun.” Claire says Coach Kudela is “pretty tough, but always supportive.” Kudela was an All-American swimmer at El Toro High in Lake Forest, SwimSwam reports, competing with the Mission Viejo Nadadores team.
Meanwhile, back in Oakhurst, Team Tuggle includes Claire’s parents, Jules and Todd Tuggle, and three brothers. Todd is a Battalion Chief for City of Fresno Fire Department, while Jules spends a significant portion of her time as a coach for the YMSC Novice and Developmental Swim Groups.
The Yosemite Marlins are a year round team with on-going signups and swim groups for all ages and abilities, practicing at the swim complex at Yosemite High School. Claire and brother Theo, 14, are both in YMSC Advanced Group.
Theo Tuggle is a force on his own, a middle to long distance swimmer who is most competitive in the 200 fly, 200 back, 500 free, 1000 free, and mile. Theo made it into the 13/14 age group at age 13, a huge accomplishment, says Jules. The All-Star swimmer will remain in the same group next year. The siblings have two younger brothers: Max is 7 and swims with the Club, while Quinn, 4, stays on the deck and helps his mom coach.
Claire Tuggle will age-up in July. In the meantime, the girl has plans.
“I am hoping to make it to Junior Nationals by the time I am twelve.”