Prairie Ridge senior Valerie Tarazi put the finishing touches on an illustrious swimming career last winter, placing second in the 100-yard breaststroke and third in the 200 individual medley to end her four-year career with eight state medals.
In the spring, Tarazi showed she is not only a great swimmer, winning the Fox Valley Conference discus championship in track and field and qualifying for the Class 3A state meet where she took 10th, missing a state medal by one place.
For her achievements in two sports, the Auburn-bound swimmer is the Northwest Herald Female Athlete of the Year, selected by the sports staff. Prairie Ridge will receive a $2,500 donation from local orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steven Rochell for Tarazi winning the award.
Tarazi recently spoke with the Northwest Herald about her proudest sports moment, her many nicknames, her biggest hero and more.
How did you first start swimming?
Tarazi: I started swimming at Crystal Lake Country Club when I was 2 years old, and I was the youngest one on the team at 4 years old.
Who is your biggest hero?
Tarazi: Probably my brother (Gavin). He always did sports, and he's probably the reason I got into swimming just because he started swimming really young and I wanted to be just like him, whether it was baseball, hockey or swimming. I wanted to be just like him.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Tarazi: It was discus, but that's not really hidden. I guess my hidden talent is softball. I played softball for three years and baseball for seven years. I quit that for swimming.
Do you have any nicknames?
Tarazi: I have a lot of nicknames. My mom calls me, "Rose," "Rosie," "Rosebud," "Sis," "Sissy," "Sissy Girl." It keeps going.
What’s the coolest place you’ve ever visited?
Tarazi: Istanbul, Turkey.
What are three of your favorite movies?
Tarazi: Hangover 1, 2 and 3.
What is a sport you would be bad at?
Tarazi: Cross country because I hate running.
Who is your favorite professional athlete?
Tarazi: Wayne Gretzky.
What is your favorite class in high school?
Who had the biggest effect on you as an athlete?
Tarazi: My coaches. I've had a number of coaches in every sport, and I've learned something different from each one of them. They've all had a huge impact. I still talk to my softball coach every month; we go out for breakfast. All my swimming coaches, track coaches ... all of them.
What’s your proudest sports moment?
Tarazi: Making Olympic Trials. That was huge. I still can't believe it happened. It was two years ago, and it seems like yesterday.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Tarazi: When people punch my feet when I'm swimming, and when they don't look at the clock when they swim.
What type of music are you into?
Tarazi: I like country music.
What’s something that people outside your family or team wouldn’t know about you?
Tarazi: When I was 10 to 14 years old, I competed in Major League Baseball's "Pitch, Hit & Run" competition. Every single year, I made it to the final rounds at Wrigley Field or (Guaranteed Rate Field).
What will you remember most about Prairie Ridge?
Tarazi: All of the teachers. Every single teacher I had some kind of impact on me. They were so supportive of me throughout my entire high school career and I can't thank them enough for that.
Who is the most famous person in your cellphone?
Tarazi: Felice Herrig. She's a professional MMA fighting who I train with at Davis Speed Center.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Tarazi: Believe in yourself. Because when you believe in yourself and you believe you can do something and you actually truly believe it, you can do it.
What scares you?
Tarazi: Spiders. I'm terrified of spiders ... and bees.
What do you hope people say about you when you are not around?
Tarazi: I hope they think that I'm dedicated to everything I do. And that I put a lot of time and effort in what I do, and that they respect that.
What are you looking forward to the most at Auburn?
Tarazi: The team experience, and just having a team with all of the same goals and cheering each other on at every meet.