Valerie Latimer has become her own person.
Coming from an extremely athletic family, Valerie has forged her own way in sports and in life.
Whatever she became involved in, "she looked at it as a challenge to do it because no one else (in the family) has," said her father, Greg Latimer.
Warren senior Valerie Latimer
Whatever she tries to accomplish, "she is proving it to herself," he said.
Her father has been inducted into the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame and Mercyhurst University Hall of Fame and is currently head football coach at Warren Area High School; her brother plays college football at Mercyhurst, and; her mother is as athletic as they come and is a fitness instructor at the YMCA.
Through it all, Valerie has participated in soccer, karate, tennis, basketball, swimming, track, softball, and volleyball.
And, with her parents' blessing, decided what she liked best on her own.
"She's driven," said Greg. "Her biggest strength is her desire to get better and be better."
She has transformed herself into a college athlete, with the possibility of participating in track at Edinboro University in the fall.
"She will be a successful young lady, there's no doubt about that," said her father.
And, while she has been influenced by her family, she is also an influence herself - especially to her younger sister, Lydia.
A little "Q & A" with Valerie Latimer:
Q: Who are your parents, siblings, what sports do you play?
A: I am the daughter of Dede and Greg Latimer. I have an older brother named TJ and a younger sister named Lydia. I play volleyball, swimming, and track.
Q: You have played or tried a number of sports in your life. What sports have you played since you were little, and give me your best memory of each.
A: I have tried many sports throughout my life such as soccer, karate, tennis, basketball, swimming, track, softball, and volleyball.
I have many memories for them all, but the ones I have played the longest and have the most memories from are softball, swimming, and volleyball.
I played softball all the way from tee ball up to my sophomore year. The best part of playing all those years was meeting people from all over the county that you got to play with and against.
Swimming was also one of those sports that you got to participate in with people from all over the county. The best memory of swimming would be would be making it to districts freshman year in breaststroke (which I am terrible at now), because I tied for second place against a girl from McDowell in a dual meet. It was a very exciting moment for me because I hadn't ever made districts in swimming before.
Finally, volleyball is another sport I have been playing since I was little. I always did little camps through the YMCA for volleyball during the winter. I played volleyball all through high school and I would consider it my favorite sport. I have many memories from the four years I played in high school because I got to play with a great group of girls. But my favorite memory of high school volleyball has to be the home game against Meadville my senior year. All of us girls were so pumped up and ready to take it to the Bulldogs after losing to them at Meadville in a close loss playing five out of five games. We had a huge student section and even the band playing at the game! Words can't explain how excited we were every time we got a kill, ace, or block. We ended up winning in four games but that was by far my favorite game and most memorable part of volleyball.
Q: You have a very athletic family. How much are sports/athletics a part of your life, and what do you think sports can teach you about life, or how can they enhance your life?
A: I have grown up playing sports and watching them. I feel sports help shape you as an athlete and student. You have to find time to balance school work and practices or games. They teach you discipline, hard work, teamwork, success and failure, sacrifice, and they push you towards making goals. I have made many friends and met many people through sports.
Q: You are in a pretty cool position in your family of having been led, and also a leader. Your mother, father and older brother have excelled in athletics. What have they taught you about playing sports. In addition, you have a younger sister... how have you influenced or can you influence her?
A: Growing up I was never forced to play a sport that I didn't want to. My parents were very easy-going about letting me do what I wanted to when it came to sports.
They have taught me many things about sports, such as working hard for the positions I want or always giving it my best. But the most important thing they have taught me is to exercise and eat right to keep myself going and in shape for the sports that I play. This has been very important to me because I feel you need to work hard all year-round for the sports you play in order to improve and succeed. Whenever I go to workout I always see if Lydia wants to go with me or if she wants to go work on any sports so I can help her practice and get better. That is something that I like to do because I am very excited to watch her become a high school athlete.
Q: Who is your inspiration and why?
A: My dad is definitely my inspiration! I can go to him for any advice and he always seems to have the right answer. He has always taken the time to help me practice sports and help me work hard at what I do. My dad is an all around great family man and coach. He would do anything for us! I love him to death!
Q: You took a year off in swimming... how difficult was it to get back to where you were competitively two years ago, and do you now remember what you loved about being a member of the swim team?
A: Swimming is the type of sport that requires a lot of conditioning in and out of the pool. I feel that once you have the technique of your stroke down it sticks with you forever or at least for a while. It wasn't too difficult to get back into the swimming groove, it just took a few weeks of training.
As you said before, I took a year off of swimming and during this time I trained for track. It was tough seeing pictures of the swim team and hearing stories of how much fun they were having because I missed swimming so much. I really regretted not swimming my junior year of high school. That is the reason I decided to come back for my senior year.
What is so special about the swim team is that not only are we a team but we are a big family. All of the coaches and swimmers welcome each other and are always willing to help each other out.
This year the Warren County Swim Team is the biggest it has been in a while because we really do have so much fun. Anyone that wants to swim for the high school is able to, even if they are just beginners - that is what is so great.
Sometimes it is tough being around each other at 6 a.m. because lets face it, not everyone is a morning person but by the end of practice we always are laughing and having fun.
Overall, I love the people on the team, the friendly competition we have practicing against each other, the fun we have, and then the real competition we have with the other teams.
Q: Is your experience this year a reason Lydia wants to swim again next season?
A: I believe that she probably feels the way I did when I took a year off. While I wasn't swimming my junior year, she still was and I could tell she was struggling with sticking with it. I kept telling her to keep going because if she doesn't do it she sure will miss it.
She did end up taking a year off but decided she wanted to swim again next year. She has come to multiple meets of mine and I have told her how much I like it and was glad I was back so I think she has seen my experience and it has influenced her choice of swimming again next year.
Q: What are your goals for immediately after high school? What are your dreams for the rest of your life?
A: My goals for immediately after high school are to enjoy my summer in Warren before I go off to college to attend Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and major in nursing.
I have always dreamed of being in the medical field and, after job shadowing, I decided nursing was the right fit. I hope to graduate with a degree as an R.N., get a good job, get married, and eventually have a family.
Q: What will you miss most about Warren Area High School?
A: The thing I will miss the most is the school spirit we have. Not many schools have what we call the "Flannel Panel." A good percentage of the students go out and support the high schools teams at sporting events. Being able to get dressed up in different themes to cheer on the basketball team was always a blast! Some of my most memorable moments came from the Flannel Panel. Having the Flannel Panel at volleyball games was always nice, too, especially when it came to big games. Being able to come together as a school for things like the Flannel Panel is something I will really miss once I graduate along with playing high school sports!
Q: Tell me on question I asked but didn't, and then answer it.
A: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would go to Italy. There is so much to see and do there.