By Reggie Ellis

Tricia D'Orazio was a model student athlete with the looks of a model. The competitive swimmer was graceful gliding through the water, just walking on campus or guiding a group of children into competition. She was one of the best high school swimmers in the Valley, had a 3.75 GPA and dreams of becoming a child psychologist.

But her dreams quickly faded to a nightmare when she lost consciousness on Friday, Oct. 7 while studying at a friend's house. Sgt. Harry Perez responded to the family's 911 call and found Tricia lying in the hallway where she had collapsed. She was showing some signs of life and was rushed to the hospital where she later died. There were air fresheners nearby that could have been used as inhalants, toxic household fumes sniffed to obtain a brief &#8220high,” but the coroner is waiting on test results to determine the actual cause of death. Her father, Bob D'Orazio, said Tricia might have been pushing herself too hard.

&#8220She put more pressure on herself to achieve more than even what I expected,” D'Orazio said. &#8220I've always taught my kids just to do their best.”

D'Orazio said his daughter seemed &#8220eager and ready” for SAT testing the next morning on Oct. 8, making he death more perplexing. The Exeter Union High School senior had borrowed a computer to take to her friend's house to study for the test. D'Orazio said he wanted her to be at a friend's house because he was working late that night.

He didn't realize that he would never see his daughter again.

&#8220Her pencil was sharpened and she was ready to go. We still aren't sure exactly what happened.”

D'Orazio said his daughter showed no signs of being overwhelmed to the point that she would consider experimenting with deadly behavior. In a letter written as part of her senior portfolio dated Aug. 15, Tricia mentions that her junior year was difficult because her mother, Margaret Stuart of Washington, died on Jan. 12 and a shoulder injury ended her swim season.

&#8220That placed a lot of stress on my schooling but I still pushed through and managed to obtain a 3.0 that semester,” she wrote. But she goes on, &#8220The road ahead is filled with dreams of obtaining a position in psychology and child development.”

Like a nutty professor, Tricia's friends said she would do almost anything to get a laugh or response out of someone as a sort of social experiment.

Samantha Starkey, Tricia's friend since freshman year, said she would always do something to cheer her friends up, or even people she hadn't met.

&#8220She talked to everybody. Every new person that came to our school she would go meet and talk to them,” Starkey said. &#8220She felt she had to know them because they came to our school.”

All of her friends described her as confident and caring friend who was always there for them.

&#8220I'm going to miss her love as a friend,” Starkey said. &#8220There was never a bad moment with Tric'. She was always the one I could call when I had problems, no matter how late at night.”

&#8220She was always more outgoing than me,” Danali McCain said. &#8220So she'd take me to the mall and make me meet random people and talk to them. She's definitely rubbed off on me.”

Friends since elementary school, Breanna Johnson said one of the goofy things that she remembers about Tricia was when she decided to go ice skating for her 17th birthday, even though she had never been before.

&#8220She always wanted to do random things for her birthday,” Johnson said. &#8220At the ice skating rink there was this guy who acted like he was all that. Tricia gave me her camera and told me she was going to go tackle the guy and wanted me to take a picture of it. She tried to make him fall but it didn't work. She ended up falling and she brought him down with her. But she never got embarrassed.”

It was a short but bright life for Tricia who seemed to excel at whatever she dedicated herself to doing. Since the age of 10 she has excelled athletically, especially in the pool. She began swimming for the Eels, part of the Central Valley Recreation Swim League for youth, after she transferred from Grace Lutheran Church School in Visalia to Sequoia Union in Lemon Cove for the seventh grade.

&#8220I feel like she was a perfect friend to have,” Johnson said. &#8220She put people before herself. I think people need to know that a lot of people loved and cared about her. She loved everybody and she'll never be forgotten.”

&#8220I'm going to miss how I'll be so incredibly mad, or have low self esteem and she could make me feel like Cinderella,” McCain said.

Tricia became a three-year varsity swimmer on the EUHS swim team. She swam the breast stroke, freestyle and individual medley, but her best event was the breast stroke.

She was the team's co-captain last year when she helped the relay team take third in the Valley Finals after coming back from a shoulder injury that cut her sophomore season short.

&#8220She was really important to us winning league,” varsity swim coach Bruce Montgomery said. &#8220She had an outstanding season.” She was looking forward to helping the team return in the spring.

&#8220She really was going to be our leader. I had just talked to her on Wednesday before and she was really excited about what we were going to do this season. She was a good kid.”

Tricia lived with her father and sister, Megan, a swimmer and sophomore at EUHS. The family moved to Exeter in March.

She was also an outstanding student, earning her Athletic E and Scholar Athlete Patch for her lettermen jacket and received a Monarch Award for her dedication to the yearbook. D'Orazio said Tricia enjoyed the time she spent coaching children in the Eels last summer.

&#8220She really took pride in making others happy,” he said. &#8220She was an excellent person. I love her so much.”

D'Orazio said his daughter was planning on attending Fresno State to follow her dreams of working with and helping children. McCain, who recently became extremely close with Tricia, said they were planning on going to keeping touch for the rest of their lives.

&#8220We planned on naming our kids after each other someday,” McCain said. &#8220One day, my daughter is definitely going to be named Tricia Ann. I'm even more certain now.”

- Andrea Camarena contributed to this report.

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