To say the Tarazi family was diligent in its quest for the precise fit for their swimming superstar is a vast understatement.
The process culminated Sunday in the basement of the Tarazis’ home, with six swimming caps sitting on a table. Valerie, a senior at Prairie Ridge who swims for the Crystal Lake co-op swimming team, announced her college decision in front of about 40 family members and friends.
Tarazi spoke glowingly of her six finalists, then reached to her far left and said, “I choose Auburn.” With that, Tarazi grinned ear-to-ear and made the “AU” symbol with her hands.
Only a few people knew what Tarazi was going to announce, some of whom were Auburn’s coaches watching on a live stream. Tarazi, with six state medals (including a state championship and two runner-up finishes) on her résumé, picked the Tigers over Hawaii, LSU, UCLA, USC and Arizona.
“Auburn is an SEC (Southeastern Conference) school, they have a bunch of money to throw at (the swimming program) and the coaching staff is amazing,” Tarazi said. “(Head coach) Brett Hawke has done a lot, (assistant) coach Lauren (Hancock), we’ve spent countless hours on the phone. (Associate head coach) Sergio (Lopez) was an Olympic silver medalist. This was a very hard decision for me. Of all the girls and all the schools, it was a very even playing field, and I wanted to swim for a school that was one of the best in the country, and all of these are.”