After a long, challenging freshman season at Auburn, Valerie Tarazi eagerly awaits some rest and relaxation with her family on a trip to Mexico.
Shortly after that, the 2018 Prairie Ridge graduate will get right back to work. It will be demanding, just the way Tarazi likes it.
“Auburn’s in a building phase,” she said. “We placed the highest at [the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships] as we have in a long, long time. We all push each other, we’re creating that elite environment and elite mentality to build our program and hopefully get back to those national championships we used to have.”
Tarazi is competing with many of her teammates this week in the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. She finished 52nd in the 200-meter breaststroke (2:34.60) and was disqualified in the 100 breaststroke for not touching a wall with both hands.
Tarazi, a three-time Northwest Herald Girls Swimmer of the Year when she swam with Crystal Lake Central co-op, said she did touch with both hands, but a shoulder dip made it look as if she had not touched with both. She owned the mistake and understood the ruling.
“I should have known better, but sometimes it just happens,” she said. “I was disappointed I got disqualified, but my time wouldn’t have qualified me for the Olympic Trials, so at least I didn’t get disqualified after I qualified for that meet. It’s OK.”
Tarazi has one more race, a time trial, to swim in Sunday’s final day of competition. It will either be in the 200 breaststroke or the 200 individual medley. In her 200 breaststroke preliminary heat Thursday, she felt like she could have qualified for the Olympic Trials.
“I dove in the water; the first 100 felt great. I was moving; it was almost effortless,” Tarazi said. “I was going into the third 50, and every single time I’ve done the race this summer, I’ve built in the third 50 and come home really strong. I was feeling so good that I didn’t feel like I needed to build in my third 50. I kept the same tempo, and my last 50 when I tried to change my tempo and get myself to the wall, I didn’t go anywhere. I was a little disappointed. I was on pace [in the first 100] to make the trials.”
It was another learning moment in what Tarazi considered a great freshman year. The Tigers finished 12th at the NCAA meet, their highest finish since tying for seventh in 2012.
Tarazi, who earned eight state medals, including a state championship and three runner-up finishes for Central, did not qualify for the NCAA meet. Tarazi’s 2:12.68 in the 200 breaststroke was Auburn’s best time in that race, and she had one win each in the 100 and 200 breaststroke for the year.
Tarazi, who was selected in 2018 as the Northwest Herald Female Athlete of the Year and the Shaw Media Regional Female Athlete of the Year, has her sights set on qualifying for the NCAA meet and the Olympic Trials. There will be other meets early next summer to qualify for the trials.
“I didn’t make [the NCAAs] this year. They only take the top 40 times. I was probably in the top 60,” Tarazi said. “I do feel [that’s realistic]. My coaches and I have been making adjustments. It’s starting to come together. Right now, I try to reset every day and figure out what I can do to make that race better and what to improve on. In the fall, we get after it right away. We’re going to get back to work and it’ll be good.”