Claire Tuggle earns three medals in Fiji for Junior Pan-Pac Team USA

14-year-old Claire Tuggle (far right with her gold medal 4×200 freestyle relay team) won two gold and one silver for Team USA at the Pan-Pac Swimming Championships in Fiji. Tuggle led off the gold medal 4×200 free relay team, placed first in the 200 free and second in 400 free. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Freshman Claire Tuggle had yet to attend class at Clovis North, but the swimming sensation continues to make her mark on not only the U.S. scene but the international level, this time halfway across the world.

Tuggle participated in the 2018 Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Suva, Fiji from Aug. 24-25 as a member of the Jr. Pan-Pac U.S. National team and came away with two gold and one silver in the three events she entered.

The 14-year old placed first in her bread-and-butter event, the 200 free with a time of 1:58.58 a personal best by one hundredth of a second, continuing her hold on the No. 2 time in U.S. history for the 13-14 age group.

Tuggle also swam the opening leg of the gold-winning 4×200 free relay team, a squad that saw all four members swim under the two-minute mark in a time of 7:57.93, a new meet record.

In the 400 free she swam 4:10.31 to place second to 16-year old Lani Pallister from Australia who went 4:07.76.

“I think that her swims were very good,” Clovis Swim Club Head Age Group Coach Mark Bennett said. “This is the first time she has had to go to a very large competition at Nationals to qualify for an international squad and then turn around and swim her best at the international meet.”

Tuggle qualified for the international team with her stellar performances at the U.S. Junior Nationals held July 31-Aug. 4 in Irvine.

The U.S. Jr. Pan Pac team is made up of 26 men and women all 18 years or under and had to finish in the top two at the U.S. Nationals to qualify. Tuggle qualified after her first place finish in her 200m freestyle and 400m freestyle. For comparison, those finishes were 10th and 14th at the National level regardless of age.

The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships started in 1985 in Tokyo, Japan with its purpose to hold a championship-level meet in non-Olympic years, two years before the next Olympic Games. The event is open to all countries that border the Pacific Ocean.

“This was an outstanding experience and was her first opportunity to compete on a US National Team and represent the USA,” Bennett said. “The two gold medals and one silver speak for themselves. However, being a part of the USA Swimming camaraderie and team culture makes a big difference.”