Maine West’s Valles pens a winning softball profile
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Ariel Valles wrote the finest postseason script in Maine West softball history last spring.
She used her right arm to do it, pitching the Warriors to their first supersectional appearance.
Too bad she can't write it for the school newspaper.
Even though she is the editor and chief and sports editor of the Westerner, you won't find Valles authoring any stories on her own team.
The all-area pitcher knows that's just not good policy.
And anyone who knows the humble personality Valles displays, they'll understand there is no way she is going to be the one to give a shoutout to her own success.
In fact, you aren't even going to see it from her on the field.
"She doesn't show a ton of emotion," said Warriors second year coach Amy Gonzales. "You put her in any situation and she will be performing the same way. She's probably one of the most focused players I've seen.
"She's hard to read. I never know if I should I say something or just let her be."
For the most part, it's 'let her be' and Valles will take care of things.
"Because she knows if it's something simple like pitch selection, she won't do it again," Gonzales said. "She knows she has to do it different the next time."
In a span of less than 17 hours, Valles won back-to-back games to lift the Warriors to their first sectional crown last May and the highlight of her varsity career thus far.
"What a weekend that was, beating New Trier, having prom and then defeating Glenbrook North," Valles said. "It all meshed together as one great weekend. Everyone coming out, cheering in the stands, and then holding the championship plaque."
And Valles did it all with little emotion, or flaunting.
You're not going to see any outward signs of celebration from the talented senior.
"I remember when I used to watch football games with my dad and how he'd grumble at players when they'd be doing a touchdown dance,"she said. "That's why I've tried to keep it low key on the field."
Valles realizes the pitcher holds a position where everyone is watching.
"So I know if I get rattled that can affect my teammates," she said. "Being stoned faced is something that comes easy for me."
So does working in the classroom.
Valles (4.94 GPA on 5.0 scale) hasn't had anything but As in every class since attending Algonquin Middle School.
The National Honor Society student gained interest in the school newspaper through her cousin Hailey Ott, a former Maine West softball standout who is now teaching in Tennessee.
"She was involved with the school paper at Maine West and she had a bunch of great experiences with it," Valles said. "I liked to write so I said, 'Why not give it a go?' I loved it and stuck with it the last three years."
Valles loves it so much she has been looking at some top journalism schools for college.
"I'd like to write for a magazine, or a newspaper," she said. "And I really like script writing."
Valles got to script a full newscast with sports and new stories when she attended a camp at Bradley University hosted by the Illinois Broadcaster's Association.
She writes a column for the Westerner called 'Medals of Dishonor' where she examines Olympic athletes whose post-sports careers didn't live up to their prior achievements.
Valles takes five advanced placement classes — Spanish, environmental science, government, English and statistics — and is class council officer.
Not to mention Valles is a member of Model United Nations and recently helped out at the Westerner Recruit Breakfast, which advises freshmen who want to join the award-winning school paper as sophomores.
All this, while playing softball, and — oh yeah — volleyball in the fall.
"My parents (Lorenzo and Eileen) have always supported me," Valles said. "No matter how far away I'd be playing my mom would be there cheering and my day coached me for six to seven years when I played with the Sparklers (Des Plaines youth softball program)."
Many of those former Sparklers are still playing now for Maine West, and Valles likes nothing better than helping teammates win softball games.
"I really love it when we really need the last out to win a game, and I get it with a strikeout," she said. "It's the best feeling in the world knowing I came through for my teammates. And I love just being with my team. We all grew up together and the softball field is where we connected for so many memories."
Memories now documented in newspaper print, which is exactly the way Valles likes it.
"I definitely like reading newspapers in print rather than on a computer," she said. "And I still like reading actual books. I don't think I'll ever have a Kindle."
Coach Gonzales couldn't have a better role model as she begins her second season directing the program.
"She (Gonzales) made it an easy transition for us last year," Valles said. "She just let us play. Obviously, she did something right."
Valles did a lot right, too, compiling a 21-9 record with an ERA under 3.00 and hitting over .300.
"Ariel is an exceptional student-athlete who excels both on and off the field," Gonzales said. "She has a great work ethic, focus and is an exceptional leader on the field and within her school community. She is the type of player that every coach would want on their team."
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