Valerie Tarazi is calling it here and now – the 100-yard breaststroke record at the IHSA Girls Swimming and Diving Meet will fall this weekend.
Tarazi, a Prairie Ridge senior who swims for Crystal Lake Central’s co-op team, did not say she would be the one who breaks the record. It could be her or Urbana University High’s Ema Rajic or Metamora’s Noel Peplowski in a rare race with three former state champions.
“Whoever wins will have a state record,” said Tarazi, who won the 100 breaststroke as a sophomore. “I wouldn’t be surprised if all three of us are under it.”
Preliminary races begin Friday, with the finals Saturday. Tarazi has a teammate for the first time in four state trips, freshman Makayla Nietzel, who will swim in four events for athletes with disabilities. Nietzel is a member of the Central team who is blind. She qualified in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles, and in the 100 breaststroke.
Jacobs freshman Jenny Tokarz is the area’s other state qualifier in the 500 freestyle.
Tarazi, who signed her National Letter of Intent with Auburn this week, is thrilled to compete against Rajic and Peplowski for the first time this high school season. She figures they will see each other in the finals of the 100 breaststroke and the 200 individual medley.
Rajic, who will swim at California next year, set records while winning both races last year (1:00.77 in the 100 breaststroke; 2:00.27 in the 200 IM). Peplowski, who is headed to Indiana, won the 100 breaststroke as a freshman.
“I saw them over the summer, but I haven’t seen them at all over the high school season,” Tarazi said. “It’s going to be really intense. We’re all super-good friends. Whenever we’re at a meet together, no matter where it is, we always end up finding each other and sitting by each other and cheering each other on, even though we’re in the same events. It’s super-fun to be able to get up and compete, especially when we have three of the top girls in the country in Illinois.”
Tarazi has six state medals: one first, two seconds, one fifth, one sixth and one ninth. She thinks winning the 100 breaststroke will take breaking 1:00 and winning the 200 IM will take getting under 2:00.
“The saying I’ve heard since my freshman year is you go for the state record in the prelims and go for the state title in the finals,” Tarazi said. “I’m just looking at best times. I can’t control what they do, so whatever. I’m going to go for a best time and race as hard as I can.”
Tarazi said she will enjoy the company of another teammate competing at state with Nietzel.
“She’s so sweet. I’m so excited to have her there,” Tarazi said. “She’s really, really good. You wouldn’t know she had the disability. She practices with us every day.”