Meet Mary Rau: Lane’s two-sport valedictorian


Valedictorian Mary Rau helped lead the Lane Tech Girls Soccer Team to an eighth straight city championship May 10.

By Alex Burstein

Senior Mary Rau’s valedictorian application was a little bit different than one would expect.

When asked in the second round of the valedictorian selection to record a graduation speech, Rau didn’t record her video standing up. Nor did she do it sitting down. Instead, she did it while bouncing on a yoga ball.

It also wasn’t a perfect video. Rau said she messed up a few times and laughed her way through it before clicking submit.

So, when Rau got called down to Assistant Principal Dr. Sarah Hanly’s office, getting selected as Lane’s highest achieving senior was not on her mind.

I thought for sure I was in trouble because I just always assume I’m in trouble and she told me ‘let’s just wait for the other kid’ and I assumed some kid had ratted on me for something,” Rau said.

Instead, Hanly was congratulating her on becoming Lane’s Class of 2023 valedictorian.

“I was just like, ‘Really?’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, we liked your speech.’”

The senior, who was picked out of a pool of 50 candidates after two rounds of applications, has been involved with a variety of activities at Lane from dancing around defenders on the soccer pitch to dancing in Gym 1 for Polynesian Club during I-Days.

Some of Rau’s greatest achievements have come as one of Lane’s top girls soccer and tennis players the last two years. This spring, Rau is second on Lane’s soccer team in both goals and assists, and she helped lead the Champions to an eighth straight city championship May 10.

In the classroom, Rau has found some of her biggest success with math, much thanks to two teachers she has had.

“I really like my teacher, Ms. Kim, that I had for freshman year geometry,” Rau said. “She has been a person that I’ve come back to, at least once a week over the past four years just to talk with. She’s been a huge advocator, like she’s written multiple letters of recs and just been, honestly, a person I could go to at the school that I feel safe with.” 

“Also, Ms. Barbara Becker. I think she’s genuinely the best teacher at Lane Tech honestly, like the best math education I’ve ever received,” Rau continued. 

While Rau has flourished both academically and athletically in her four years at Lane, she said finding the balance between all aspects of her life has kept her energized and ready to go. 

“I’ve tried to just leave at least Friday and Saturday fully open for just my personal enjoyment so I don’t get burnt out. … I feel like the best way to balance things is by truly balancing every aspect of your life, including personal life and just contentment,” Rau said.

That balance she found in high school is in part what drew Rau to Tulane University for college, where she’ll prepare for a career likely as a biomedical engineer or a doctor.

Rau’s oldest brother went to Tulane, and while visiting over the last five years, she fell in love with the New Orleans university.

“I really wanted a school that was sort of like laying in the aspect of balance I wanted, play hard, work hard, that whole dynamic,” Rau said. “So I was just looking for a place that I knew I could immerse myself in the culture socially and academically.”

But before heading to Louisiana, Rau will present her speech, which was based on her Common App personal statement essay, in front of the entire class of 2023 at graduation on May 31. But as for the theme, she’s keeping that under wraps for now.

“I don’t want to spoil it, but it was kind of like an extended metaphor,” Rau said. “And I tried to make it a little bit more lighthearted, not super, like inspirational or serious.”