Hanna Blankemeier had a good reason to mope after the preliminary round of the state swimming finals Friday at New Trier.

As the top seed in the 100-yard freestyle, the Oak Park and River Forest High School junior had a chance to become her school’s first state champion in 20 years.

That chance died when Blankemeier was disqualified for a false start.

She knew, however, there was still hope for the Huskies. Plenty of it, in fact.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” Blankemeier said. “Once it’s a DQ I can’t change it, so I might as well block it out and now I can focus on less events and just do the best I can.”

Blankemeier and her teammates did just that during Saturday’s final round, turning in OPRF’s best performance since Bill Clinton’s presidency.

The quartet of Blankemeier, senior Genevieve Curry, sophomore Samantha Neilson and freshman Natalie Ungaretti brought home medals in all three relays. That, combined with individual medals from Ungaretti and sophomore Alexandra Gill, allowed the Huskies to finish sixth with 65 points, 10 points and one spot ahead of crosstown rival Fenwick.

The placement was the highest for the Huskies since 1997, when they finished fourth, and their point total was the eighth-highest in school history.

The highlight of the day came in the first event, the 200-yard medley relay, when Blankemeier, Curry, Neilson and Ungaretti missed winning a state title by less than a half-second.

The OPRF quartet, which was ranked third after the prelims, moved up one place to capture second place in 1:44.05. Rosary won the race in 1:43.69 but it was the Huskies’ best showing in a relay since 1992.

“We went in third place and it’s really hard to move up in finals and we did it,” Curry said. “We wanted to go as fast as we could and we were so close to beating Rosary, but we did awesome and we gave it everything we had. I’m super happy.”

There was much for the fantastic foursome to be happy about. They used the same lineup, in the same order, to finish fifth in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:35.21.

Blankemeier and Ungaretti switched places on the 400 free relay, which Blankemeier anchored to seventh place in 3:28.28, which was an improvement on their prelim time of 3:29.09.

While Blankemeier and Ungaretti are two of the fastest freestylers in the state and could win individual state titles before they graduate, their main focus this year was on the relays.

“Ever since the first meet that we were at, we all got together and we were like, ‘this is our relay for state, this is what is going to bring us to the top,'” Ungaretti said. “The whole season, all we’ve been thinking about pretty much is these relays, swimming together. All the morning relay practices we’ve gone to, doing the relay starts, made our starts so much better and together as a team we’re just really close.”

That camaraderie is what made the season special and, with Curry the only senior, perhaps a portent of things to come.

“It’s really a privilege to be racing with these girls because they make me want to be a better swimmer,” Neilson said. “Hanna always pushes me in everything I do and I’m so thankful to be on this team with them. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.”

Ungaretti and Gill each won their first individual medals. Ungaretti took ninth in the 50 free in 23.65 after a 23.41 clocking in prelims, while Gill was 12th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:05.23.

Fenwick has fun, too

Fenwick returned to the ranks of the elite after a one-year absence.

The Friars finished seventh with 55 points, earning their seventh top 10 finish in the past eight years and they did it without any Division I stars.

Like OPRF, Fenwick medaled in all three relays, two of which qualified for the championship heats.

Senior Theresa Mullen anchored all three relays.

“It was awesome,” Mullen said. “I’m swimming with a bunch of great girls and it’s so fun to swim with them.”

The 200 medley relay team of sophomore Brooke West and seniors Catherine Clancy, Erin Scudder and Mullen placed sixth in 1:44.89, while the 200 free relay of senior Claire Drnek, sophomore Grace Rogowski, Catie Wallace and Mullen was seventh in 1:36.24.

The Friars capped the meet by capturing fifth place in the 400 free relay as Wallace, Scudder, West and Mullen timed 3:28.29.

Scudder was the lone individual medalist, finishing 10th in the 100 butterfly in 56.93 for a team that exceeded expectations.

“I think we did,” Mullen said. “We worked very, very hard all season.

“Fridays we had triple practices and then Saturdays we usually have a meet, so we were just working hard. And we also stayed positive, we always encouraged each other, so I think in the end that really helped.

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