Since 2008, the Fenwick High School girls swimming team has been one of the most successful programs in the state. During their halcyon run, the Friars have posted seven Top 10 finishes, highlighted by runner-up results at the 2012 and 2011 state finals.

With an impressive array of standout swimmers like Kelly Ryan, Maureen Barron, Haley Wickham, Mimi Schneider, Paulina Kaminski and Eric Scudder (all graduated), it’s apparent why Fenwick has been a perennial state contender.

While crosstown rival OPRF can’t claim the same cachet as the Friars in recent years, the Huskies had a historic season in 2016, enjoying their most successful state meet in nearly three decades, finishing fourth in the team standings and winning a pair of state championship events last year.

OPRF’s 200-yard medley relay of Hanna Blankemeier, Alex Gill, Samm Neilson and Natalie Ungaretti became just the third relay team in program history to win a championship.

Ungaretti also became only the third OPRF girl to win an individual title when she captured the 50-yard freestyle. Blankemeier and Gill won individual medals during a virtuoso performance that was the program’s best since 1989, when the Huskies won their second of back-to-back team state titles.

OPRF visited Fenwick on Tuesday, Sept. 19 in the teams’ annual nonconference dual meet. The Friars enjoyed a clean sweep of the Huskies, winning the varsity meet 115.50-70.50 and the junior varsity 118-65.

“We definitely rose to the occasion to race,” Fenwick swimmer Brooke West said. “The dual meet against OPRF is always one of our favorite meets. The most amazing part of the meet was to watch how our team united and worked together. I’m so excited about our team — it’s the largest it has ever been, with 80 athletes and six extraordinary coaches.”

West led the Friars with a couple of individual wins plus strong work in the relays. She won the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1 minute, 55.03 seconds and the 100-yard backstroke in 56.76 seconds. She also swam a leg for the victorious Friars in the 200-yard medley (1:48.27) and the 400-yard freestyle (3:38.76).

The Friars’ victory in the 200 medley was significant, considering OPRF had Samm Neilson, Ungaretti and Gill in the race. Peyton Olszowka swam the other leg (replacing the graduated Blankemeier) for the reigning state champs in that event.

“We graduated a number of talented seniors last season. It’s hard not to feel the loss of a standout swimmer like Hanna (Blankemeier),” said Gill, “but I believe in the talent of our team. We plan to represent OPRF well at state again this year.

“From freshman to senior year, our talent is represented across OPRF. It’s always good to see times drop and best times midseason. Avery Kozak, Sara Segal, Elizabeth Silber, Peyton Olszowka, and Samm Neilson are just a few to watch.”

The Friars’ 200 medley quartet of West, Perri Stahl, Grace Rogowski and Ciara Mulcahy recorded a time of 1:48.27, ahead of OPRF’s 1:51.55.

Rogowski, a top swimmer for Fenwick, placed first in the 500-yard freestyle, touching the wall at 5:23.32. The Friars’ Tatum Burek won the 100-yard butterfly (1:01.18).

Fenwick is off to a fast start this fall. In addition to their victory over OPRF, the Friars have beaten Mother McAuley, Benet, and Jones Prep in duals. Fenwick also swept visiting Regina, Marist and Resurrection in a quad on Aug. 29.

Regarded as one of the best sprint swimmers in the state, Ungaretti performed well for OPRF with first-place showings in the 50-yard (23.92) and 100-yard freestyle races (52.13) against the Friars.

“It’s already been an amazing season,” Ungaretti said. “As a team, I think our main goal is to enjoy the experience. I think all of us are focused on being positive and happy and working really hard at practice. I know at the end-of-season meets everything will come together and enable us to shine.”

Gill picked up a pair of wins as well at Fenwick. She won the 200-yard individual medley at 2:14.40 and the 100-yard breaststroke at 1:07.18.

In earlier results this season, Sandburg edged the Huskies 96-90 in the latter’s season opener. OPRF beat York 122-64 in a conference dual and took second place at the Riverside-Brookfield Invitational.

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...