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Romagnolo in class by himself

Michael Traum

Nick Romagnolo’s failures, as much as his triumphs, make his story uniquely special.

He missed a one-on-one opportunity to win a soccer playoff game. He bricked a 15-foot jumper to win a basketball zone title. He didn’t make state after finishing undefeated in small league swimming.

All life experiences, Romagnolo says matter of factly, are pieces of a great, more significant whole.

And when the South Tahoe High senior steps on the podium today, addressing the 1997 graduating class as valedictorian, he may stumble with the words, or forget a line, or miss a cue.

But it would take a 12.0 earthquake, a Lake Tahoe tsunami or world-wide power outage to even begin to tarnish the accomplishments of the remarkable young man.

Simply, Romagnolo is the 1997 Tribune Male Athlete of the Year for South Tahoe High.

“You just have to ask yourself what does it mean in the grand scheme of things. Losing a championship is just as important as winning. Even bad memories are good things – you learn from them all,” Romagnolo said.

The senior’s school days were busier than U.S. Highway 50 on the Fourth of July. His list of accomplishments reads more like a presidential resume than a high school kid’s transcripts.

In the classroom, perhaps most impressively, he touted a 4.56 grade point average – the highest in South Tahoe history.

Away from the playground, he was associated student body president, board of education student representative, Tahoe Youth and Family Services representative, player of two musical instruments and the lion in a school production of “The Wiz.”

And on the field, Romagnolo was the captain of the soccer team, offensive MVP, leading scorer and first team all-leaguer. On the court, a captain and winner of the team’s hardest worker award. In the pool, a captain, MVP and undefeated in league four years in a row.

“Nick is one of those special kids that doesn’t come around that often,” said Tahoe soccer coach Joe Winters. “A failure to him is a success to most people. He’s one of those great all-around kids. You’ll never find anyone who works harder or is more dedicated.”

So how is it that Romagnolo makes the connection between sports and life, success and failure, staying positive vs. giving up?

He credits just one thing – his family.

“I owe it all to my parents. They do a great job with all three of us (brothers Alex and “Bubba”). They instilled a set of values, morals, work ethic and dedication which were expected. When it didn’t happen, there were consequences,” Romagnolo said. “Once you learn it, it becomes your morals and not just something that’s being said.

“My parents taught me that there’s more to life than school and sports. Some people like to tear down a successful person. Those people don’t even know me. My mom always said don’t worry about what other people think of you because you’re going different places than they are.”

Romagnolo continued, “Sometimes you feel like you’re going to blow up. When times are hard, it’s just a matter of alleviating stress. Sports helped me with that.”

Added South Tahoe basketball coach Tom Orlich, “The intangibles are what made Nick special. He was an excellent leader and model for his work ethic. It’s a tribute to his family. They went out of the way for him. Nick will be sorely missed.”

The community’s temporary loss is the collegiate rank’s gain. Romagnolo will attend Stanford University where he hopes to study history and pre med while trying to walk on the men’s soccer team.

“It’s a tribute to his strong will to succeed. If anyone can do it, it’ll be Nick,” Winters said.


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