The Oak Park and River Forest High School girls swimming team does not have the depth to challenge the state’s elite teams, but that didn’t stop it from making its mark at New Trier’s Trevian Relays on Oct. 18.
Though they finished 11th in a 12-team field that included all but a couple of the state’s top teams, the Huskies were the only squad to win three events. New Trier won the team title with 145 points, followed by Lake Forest (118.5) and Barrington (115).
OPRF sophomore Hanna Blankemeier won the 100-yard freestyle in 52.42 seconds and junior teammate Genevieve Curry captured the 200 individual medley in 2 minutes, 10.51 seconds.
In addition, OPRF won the 200 medley relay behind Blankemeier, Curry, freshman Samantha Neilson and junior Jilly Cronin in 1:50.12, edging Neuqua Valley by .44 and New Trier by .77 better.
Neuqua Valley was 11th in the state in that relay last year, while New Trier was third and Fenwick second. Fenwick was fifth in this race, albeit with a new lineup.
“We had some great swims,” OPRF assistant coach Joyce Gayda said. “It is [a big accomplishment].
“We’ve got some really up-and-coming, prominent swimmers and it was nice to have them swim against some of the best in the state and really rise to the challenge. It was really rewarding to see that.”
Blankemeier was 24th in the 100 free and 200 free at last year’s state meet as a freshman. She won the 100 by .63 over New Trier’s Brittany Bishop and was fourth in the 200 in 1:54.65, just 1.28 behind winner Kirsten Jacobsen, the state record holder from Barrington.
“It was really fun,” Blankemeier said. “I’ve been working hard a lot this season so it was nice to kind of have it pay off before the [postseason] meets, to be confident going into them.”
Blankemeier’s 200 time is already under the state cut and just two seconds shy of her personal best. She missed her PR in the 100 by about a half-second.
Though it comes during a time in the season when most swimmers are enduring grueling training, the New Trier meet is usually a good indication of future success at the state meet. Event winners often end up earning top-12 medals at state.
“I think placing at state would be a good goal for me,” Blankemeier said. “That’s kind of what I’m looking at.”
Gayda said that’s a realistic aspiration.
“She is [the real deal],” Gayda said. “She’s really impressive and she puts the work in, too. It’s not just pure talent. She’s the full package of work and attitude and effort.”
Curry is a transfer from Fenwick, which finished third in the state last year to win its third state trophy in four years. She was 31st in the breaststroke at state.
Curry was second in the breaststroke in 1:06.16, just .42 behind Neuqua Valley sophomore Amanda Brockmeier, who has the fastest time in the state this season. Her victory in the IM, which comprises all four strokes, is an indicator of her rise as an all-around swimmer.
“It felt really good,” Curry said. “I’m now prepared for sectionals and state. I’m excited to go there and see how I can do, so [this] kind of gave me an idea that I can do really well there.”
“She had a really great day,” Gayda said. “She’s been a real leader for our team as well in all those same areas as Hanna is.
“I think our expectations are that they’re going to be scoring points at state. They’ve got all the pieces in place to finish the season really strong.”
Curry, who missed her PR by a second in the breaststroke and a few-hundredths in the IM, has fit in well with her new team.
“I love it,” Curry said. “We’re all doing really well. We all get along really well.
“We work hard together and we push each other. It’s really fun.”
With their successful showing at New Trier, the Huskies realize they are capable of great things in the postseason.
“It’s definitely really awesome for us,” Blankemeier said. “It gives us more confidence going into sectionals and state. I think we have a really nice team.”
In other notable results, the Huskies’ 400 free relay team of Neilson, Curry, senior Mia Andreoli and Blankemeier finished third in 3:40.02. Neilson was sixth in the 100 backstroke (1:02.108) and freshman Alexandra Gill took 13th in the breaststroke (1:11.64).