By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
Swimming sensation Claire Tuggle is turning heads in the swimming world and breaking national age group records.
And the scary thing? She just turned 13 years old.
Tuggle, a soon-to-be eighth grader at Granite Ridge Intermediate (feeding into Clovis North), participated in the NCSA Junior National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana Aug. 1-5 and placed first in the 200 free (2:00.63), 400 free (4:15.45) and 800 free (8:43.57).
To be sure, winning those events is quite an accomplishment in itself but she regularly beat girls who were 16 and 17 years old – her times are among the best all-time for her new age group of 13-14.
And take a look at this – her time of 2:00.63 in the 200 free is the 41st best time in the nation. Yes – the nation – meaning anyone and everyone no matter the age. And what’s more – it’s the 145th best time in the world and the best time for 13-14 year olds.
“We are blown away with the results she’s getting with the training that she’s doing,” said Mark Bennett, her coach at the Clovis Swim Club. “We are positive that if she continues the path that we’ve been able to put together that even greater results will come.”
The process over results at this age is important, especially for such a special talent like Tuggle. Sure, her coaches could push her for some times that would absolutely blow people away, but that’s not the goal.
While an additional medal around her neck or another smashed record is nice, there is the larger picture at hand – the Olympics. She’ll be 16 years old by the 2020 Olympic Games and 20 by 2024.
“On some level I’m surprised, she works hard and is a consistent swimmer,” said Bennett. “We are not trying to see what kind of results we can get as a 12 or 13 year old – we want to see her up on the World Championships and the Olympic podium.”
Also of note at the Junior National Championships is that fact that Tuggle finished 2nd in the 100m, 11 minutes after winning the 800.
“The funny thing is we are not pushing her, we are being very careful about this,” added Bennett. “One of the things we are looking at is creating a long term plan and sticking to it. Her results are exceeding her training really.”
Tuggle currently owns seven National Age Group records (called NAGs), her most recent was on June 25 as a 12-year-old when she clocked a time of 4:18.41 in the long course 400m freestyle at the Summer Slam in Fresno. She broke the 26-year old record of Dee Brown, who went 4:19.48 in 1991.
So, what’s next on the schedule for Tuggle besides starting school at Granite Ridge on Aug. 21 as an eighth grader?
There’s the Winter Junior Nationals in Columbus, Ohio in December and the Junior Nationals in Orlando, Florida in March of 2018. Next summer’s Junior Nationals will be in Irvine.
Process over results yes, but the results so far for Claire Tuggle, swimming sensation, are mighty fine indeed.