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Prairie Ridge senior Valerie Tarazi earned the Female Athlete of the Year award, while Jack Jessen of Willowbrook was the Male Athlete of the Year. Each was awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
“It means a lot,” Tarazi said. “I was struggling swimming last year, I really didn’t have a great state meet. It was after Olympic trials, and I wanted something to take my mind off swimming, and track was the way to do it. I sat down with the coach and said, ‘I want to do this for fun, but I want to be very good at it.’ I’m very competitive.”
Tarazi earned a pair of medals at the State Swim Meet, and came just shy of medaling in the discus, taking 10th at the Class 3A State Track and Field Championships. She’ll swim for Auburn next year. She said she was gunning to win the Northwest Herald’s top honor, but was surprised to win over a much larger field.
Jessen went 51-0 this year as a wrestler at 182 pounds and is committed to Northwestern to continue his wrestling career. He also was a bruising running back for the Warriors, rushing for 2,050 yards and 24 touchdowns this year. He helped the Warriors reach the quarterfinals of the Class 6A playoffs.
The event was hosted by Arkush and featured a speech by former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman.