Nazareth senior Van Daff attacks her latest challenges
Nazareth 's Taylor Van Daff poses for her wrestling Senior Night photo with her mother Georgette and father John. She posted six wins for the Roadrunners varsity this year. | Photo courtesy of Dan Roll
Thursday Softball: vs. Chicago Christian, 4:30 p.m.
Softball: vs. Chicago Christian, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday Volleyball: at Plainfield North Invitational, 8:30 a.m.
Volleyball: at Plainfield North Invitational, 8:30 a.m.
Updated: April 22, 2013 11:30AM
Nazareth senior Taylor Van Daff is a modern day Renaissance woman.
Whether it’s math club, Spanish club, community service or sports, when Van Daff sees a new challenge she takes it head on and conquers it.
Van Daff, who lives in Westchester, had already been competing in cross country and track when some of her friends joked that she should try out for the wrestling team.
Nazareth began its wrestling program in 2009. Three years later, it welcomed its first female, Van Daff in November.
“I thought I’d try something different for a change,” she said. “I met the coaches and I think they thought I was going to quit within a month. My friends were taking bets on how long until I would quit and that kept me motivated to finish the season.”
Head wrestling coach Denis Laughlin quickly saw how motivated Van Daff was.
“Her work ethic was tremendous,” Laughlin said. “She probably had the highest attendance for practice on the team.”
Van Daff didn’t set any grand goals. She just wanted to be part of the team and make a contribution. She did just that and a lot more.
“Honestly I had no idea what it was going to be like,” Van Daff said. “I wanted to win at least one match and that was my goal for the season. When I started winning more it was just an amazing experience.”
Van Daff finished the season with a varsity record of 6-8 at 106 and 113 pounds. While collecting wins and helping score team points in tournaments was thrilling, Van Daff will remember the life lessons she learned.
“I thought it was really a fantastic character builder,” she said. “It gave me a different perspective on gender roles and overcoming those perspectives. It helped me become determined.”
Van Daff, who is leaning toward attending Vanderbilt and become a CPA one day, has had other obstacles to overcome. Last year she started having trouble breathing while running. After visiting a doctor, she was diagnosed with asthma.
Asthma and cross country don’t go together very well, so Van Daff has had to recalculate how she attacks races.
“My first few years I was in the top 12 on varsity and I kind of fell out of that last year because of asthma,” she said. “It was really difficult for me personally, just mentally. But as soon as I understood my limits it was rewarding to just finish a race without having to stop and use my inhaler. My team was really supportive and they helped me understand my limits.”
That’s why she switched from long-distance races to sprints for the track season.
“We’re just kind of readjusting her role,” Nazareth head track coach Joe Wejman said. “The only problem with Taylor is she doesn’t like to show weakness. You worry if she’s jeopardizing her health. You’re happy that she’s dedicated and will push to make the team better but sometimes she has to step back and realize she doesn’t have to go so hard all the time.”
Easing off the throttle is easier said than done for someone with Van Daff’s drive and determination.