Although The Oak Park and River Forest High School girls swimming team and its top performer, Natalie Ungaretti, didn’t finish higher in the standings at the state meet compared to last season’s historic showing, the Huskies (particularly Ungaretti) actually swam faster in terms of times.

Last year, the Huskies finished fourth in the team standings and won a pair of state titles. Ungaretti became only the third OPRF girl to win an individual title when she captured the 50-yard freestyle, and the Huskies’ 200-yard medley relay of Hanna Blankemeier, Alexandra Gill, Samm Neilson and Ungaretti also brought home a state championship as the third relay in program history to garner that honor.

The Huskies turned in another very good performance at the state meet hosted by New Trier on Saturday, finishing 16th with 28 points in the team standings.

Ungaretti, The 50 free  defending state champ, recorded a faster time in both sprint races this season. She finished third in the 50 free with a time of 23.06 seconds (better than her 2016 state-title winning time of 23.31). She also placed fourth in the 100-yard freestyle at 50.34 (lbetter than her 2016 state meet runner-up finish of 50.90).

With another strong offseason of training, Ungaretti will return for her senior campaign as the Huskies’ unquestioned leader and a major contender to win state titles in the sprint events. 

The 200 medley relay came up short defending its title, but still produced a 14th place showing. The quartet of Peyton Olszowka, Gill, Sara Segal and Ungaretti recorded a time of 1:47.32. The team missed Blankemeier (now swimming at Yale University) and Neilson, who suffered an injury towards the end of this season.

“Natalie and Alex are so talented,” Segal said. “They always do an amazing job at State. I really enjoyed the good energy our entire team had all season.”

Another bright spot for OPRF occurred in the diving competition. Junior Sophie Lever came in ninth place with a score of 401.45.

She’ll return next season as a contender to win state. While she excelled personally, Lever praised her teammates.

“I really enjoyed getting to know everybody on the team this season,” Lever said. “We had a bigger dive team this year. I was able to become even closer with everyone on the team.”

Gill, one of the team leaders along with Ungaretti, touched the wall to 1:05.14 in the 100-yard breaststroke to earn 17th place.

“It was an honor to serve my team as one of the team captains this year,” Gill said. “We grew so close as a team. I’m incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished, in and out of the water.

“I will cherish all of the fun memories we made together move forward knowing that these friendships will endure long after high school swimming is over.”

Fenwick, which swept OPRF in two regular-season meetings and its sectional, finished slightly higher (13th/30 points) than the Huskies.

The Friars’ top swimmer, Brooke West,  placed third in her best performance. The United States Naval Academy-bound West was third in the 100-yard backstroke (55.36). She also earned ninth in the 100 free at 51.57.

“This season was absolutely amazing,” Brooke West said. “As a senior, it was a privilege leading this team of eighty girls bursting with energy, love and a lot of hard work.”

In addition to West, the Fenwick relays recorded a pair of top 12 showings.

In the 200 medley, West, Perri Stahl, Grace Rogowski and Ciara Mulcahy came in eighth with a time of 1:45.60.

In the final race of the day, the Friars’ 400-yard freestyle relay of Rogowski, Blaire West, Mulcahy and Brooke West was 12th at 3:32.44.

Rogowski, a senior, finished 25th in the 50 free at 24.21.

Freshman Tatum Burek, sophomore Katie Drumm and senior Kate Mackie also contributed for Fenwick in the preliminary swims.

“I’m very happy for our team,” Burek said. “I’m amazed with our overall performance. I feel we did our best and we couldn’t be happier with how we did this season.”

Both the Huskies and Friars return plenty of talent next season.

Rosary won the state championship with 169 points in the team standings. Oswego East (1378.5), St. Charles North (108), Normal Community (104) and New Trier (94) rounded out the top five.

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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...