Internal expectations are rising for the Oak Park and River Forest High School girls swimming team.
Ditto for Fenwick.
Sophomore Hanna Blankemeier became just the fifth OPRF swimmer to win four medals at a single state meet when she captured two individual and two relay medals Saturday at Evanston.
Blankemeier is the first Huskie to accomplish that feat since Kathleen Gilbert in 1997, but she wasn’t entirely satisfied by finishing fourth in the 100-yard freestyle and fifth in the 50 free.
“I didn’t do as well as I wanted to both in placing and in my time,” Blankemeier said of her 50 effort. “I added some time since yesterday, so I was a little disappointed. But it’s a nice first medal, so it’s exciting.”
Blankemeier swam at state as a freshman in the 100 and 200 but did not advance to the finals in either. She was 24th in both races.
But a strong regular season raised her expectations this fall and she responded by qualifying for the championship heats in the 50 and the 100. Blankemeier was third in the 50 in a personal-best 23.53 during Friday’s prelims, but slipped a couple notches in the finals after timing 23.67.
The reverse was true in the 100. Blankemeier was fifth after a prelims time of 51.29 but clocked 51.42 in the finals to move up one spot.
Adding to Blankemeier’s banner day were two relay medals. She teamed with junior Genevieve Curry, freshman Samantha Neilson and senior Chloe Guhlstorf to finish 11th in the 200 medley relay (1:47.25) and 10th in the 200 free relay (1:37.66).
“It’s really exciting,” Blankemeier said. “It was a lot different than last season. I didn’t have a great state meet [last year]. [State] is intense, but it’s fun.”
So what led to Blankemeier’s dramatic improvement?
“I think it was just the experience, knowing what to expect and what I’m coming into,” Blankemeier said.
Hard work pays off for young Friars, Scudder at state meet
Like Blankemeier, the invaluable experience gained by Fenwick’s Erin Scudder also bodes well for her next season.
The junior carted off three medals in her state meet debut, including her first individual medal thanks to a 10th place finish in the 200 free, where she timed 1:54.23 after going 1:53.59 in the prelims to qualify for the consolation heat.
“It’s so exciting,” Scudder said. “I knew I had everyone on my team behind me the whole way. We’ve worked so hard in practice and to see our work pay off in the pool and just to be here with my team is so exciting.”
Like OPRF, Fenwick made the consolation finals in two relays. The 200 medley relay squad of senior Katie Vulich and juniors Catherine Clancy, Scudder and Theresa Mullen was 12th in 1:48.37, while the 400 free quartet of junior Catie Wallace, freshman Grace Rogoswski, Scudder and Mullen was eighth in 3:32.34.
Wallace swam on Fenwick’s state championship 400 free relay last year while Mullen was on the 200 free relay that was 11th, but for the most part, this was the school’s most inexperienced team in years. The Friars, who had won three straight state trophies and four in the past five years, would not use that as excuse to do less.
“We’ve been told that Fenwick has no off years,” Scudder said. “So even though we lost the seniors, we still have an awesome senior this year [Vulich] and she motivates us so much. We might not have the superstars like Mimi [Schneider] and Paulina [Kaminski] but we have so many girls that have worked so hard that when we all come together, it’s pretty awesome.”