Roncalli High School senior Claire Whalen has let her faith steer the way when making major life choices.

Faith certainly helped steer her toward Roncalli, where she graduated as the valedictorian of the Class of 2017.

Whalen experienced both private and public schools, attending Our Lady of the Greenwood School through fifth grade before spending her middle school years at Center Grove. When it came time to choose between Center Grove and Roncalli for high school, she was torn.

“I think my parents, having a little bit more foresight than me in recognizing where I was in my faith life, thought that it would be the best decision,” Whalen said.

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In addition to finishing first in her class, Whalen also is a three-sport athlete, competing in cross-country, basketball and track for the Rebels. She was part of the radio broadcast team during boys basketball games as well.

And SS. Francis and Clare Catholic Church, she served as the master of ceremonies at Masses for her first three years of high school. After a knee injury — one that wiped out her senior season of cross-country and part of basketball — left her somewhat physically limited, she joined the ensemble choir instead.

For college, her faith again steered her choice — she’ll be going to the University of Notre Dame, passing up a full scholarship offer from the University of Louisville.

“That was a big part of the reason I chose Notre Dame, the faith component,” Whalen said.

And though she won’t be playing any varsity sports for the Fighting Irish, athletics remain a big part of Whalen’s life. Right now, she’s planning to study psychology and pre-med, perhaps following in the footsteps of her parents, both of whom are physical therapists.

Whalen is fascinated by the human body and also could  see herself going to medical school and becoming an orthopedic physician, but not a surgeon, she said.

“I don’t have the artistic ability to put a body back together,” she said.

Whether she’s in the classroom, on a basketball court or participating in mass, she’s always had the same approach.

“I think my parents instilled in me at a young age the idea of having a strong work ethic and giving your best effort,” Whalen said. “So I think that’s probably always been my focus, the idea that you don’t give something less than your best.”

The Whalen file

Name: Claire Whalen

Age: 17

Parents: Rob and Liz Whalen

Residence: Center Grove area

College plans: Will be attending the University of Notre Dame in the fall

Career goals: Is interested in sports medicine or potentially becoming an orthopedic physician

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2715.