Claire Tuggle Breaks 40-Year-Old NAG With 4:49.31 At NCSAs


Claire Tuggle continues to tear up the National Age Group record books in Orlando, this time setting a new 11-12 500 freestyle NAG at 4:49.32.

That swim comes one day after Tuggle twice lowered the 200 yard free NAG record. The 12-year-old was 1:48.85 in prelims and 1:47.71 in finals to ultimately cut about two seconds off that NAG record.

Friday night, Tuggle competed in the D final of the 500 free at NCSA Junior Nationals in Orlando. Despite going just 4:56.58 in the morning, she blaster her 4:49.32 at night to take over the record, which had stood at 4:49.51. She now owns the 200 and 500 yard freestyle records in both age groups in which she’s competed – the 10 & Under records still stand from 2015, and she now has both 11-12 records this week.

The swim takes down the legendary Sippy Woodheadwho had held this record since 1977. In fact, it was the third-oldest National Age Group record left on the books, standing for 40 years. For sport, here’s a look at the oldest NAG records still left on the books:

  1. 1976 – Bobby Hackett – 15-16 – 1500m free – 15:03.91
  2. 1976 – Jesse Vassallo – 13-14 – 1500m free – 15:31.03
  3. 1977 – Sippy Woodhead – 11-12 – 500y free – 4:49.51
  4. 1978 – Sippy Woodhead – 13-14 – 200m free – 1:58.53
  5. 1978 – Sippy Woodhead – 13-14 – 400m free – 4:07.15
  6. 1979 – Mary T. Meagher – 13-14 – 200m fly – 2:07.01
  7. 1981 – Mary T. Meagher – 15-16 – 200y fly – 1:52.99

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Why have the distance swimming records stood so long?


Because in the 70/80s they used to train up to 20k/day. That could be exaggerated but the coaches had keys to the pools… So they had time. Nowadays kids aren’t getting the aerobic base to develop into good distance swimmers… I think mostly it’s a generational thing. Kids want instant results so coaches make them do 25s and 50s at race pace all practice because what young kid wants to grind out 10ks? Regardless that there’s an aerobic window open only so long for young kids to build up the base. American swimming is missing that window. Unless we go back to some more old school training than I don’t think those records will fall for a very long time.… Read more »


Thanks. Similar pattern in US distance running, although there has been a recent Renaissance.

Freestyle is the only stroke you can compare times back that far as the rule changes in other strokes have enabled faster swimming


There’s a few other things too. The coaches were tough on kids. A lot of coaches are tough now… But nothing like the 70s/80s. I even think about Jonty Skinner’s world record in the 100 free. 49.6? And he swam 16-20k a day. Again add a fast pool and tech suits and the development of dolphin kicks and he’s up there on the world level for today’s swimming. His coach, Bill Palmer, didn’t give easy days he just crushed his athletes, which either forced adaptations or resulted in injury. It proves you can still have a lot of speed on very high yards. I think coaches are looking so much more at short term gains now rather than long term… Read more »

Steve Nolan

I’m a real big fan of these two sentences being in the same comment:

” His coach didn’t give easy days he just crushed his athletes, which either forced adaptations or resulted in injury.”

“I think coaches are looking so much more at short term gains now rather than long term benefits.”

jay ryan

Skinner 49.81 leading off the 400 FR at AAU Nationals in Philadelphia 1976, then 49.44 in the event in the same meet.


Just plain wrong. ASCA spews this nonsense too. In no other sport are coaches so innundated with this stupid overexaggerated idea of aerobic development at very young ages. Not in any real physiology text is this same dogma promoted


Girls developed younger than boys do. So, doing high yardage for young girls is different than boy swimmers. A girl at 12 is almost as tall as she is at 16 years old.


Well given that adult distance swimmers are going up to 30 seconds faster than they were in that era, I think we’re doing fine without the “aerobic base” that 13-16 year olds had back then.


It’s kinda weird to argue that training methods were better 40 years ago when swimmers today are so much faster… even distance swimmers. ledecky? paltrinieri? Someone here said coaches now are all about short-term gain but IMO it looks like the opposite… in the old days you might do mega-yardage and make kids a little faster in the short-term (at least in distance events) but they’d burn out or hurt themselves before they were out of their teens. Today’s coaching is obviously more advanced… we’re the same species, we just swim a lot faster. Of course in some cases, like Ms. Woodhead, it’s just an extraordinary (and early blooming) talent.


Yea the kids were good young back in the day, but theyn they’d become injured or burn out. I’ll take today’s slow and steady (and more technique-focused) progression.


Also, for the oldest NAG records, Mary T. Meagher has 2 records from 1979 in the 100 & 200 LCM Fly.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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