OPRF junior sprint swimmer Natalie Ungaretti has verbally committed to Tennessee. The Volunteers have one of the best NCAA women's swimming programs in the country. (Submitted photo)

Regardless of what happens in the pool next season, Oak Park and River Forest High School junior swimmer Natalie Ungaretti has already secured her place as one of the Huskies’ all-time greats.

Over the past two years, she also has been honored as Wednesday Journal’s “Breakout Athlete of the Year” in 2016 and “Female Athlete of the Year” in 2017 at the annual Night of Champions event in June.

She will likely reach similar heights of success and recognition in Knoxville, Tennessee as a member of the highly-ranked University of Tennessee swimming team in the fall of 2019. Ungaretti, who lives in Oak Park, has verbally committed to the Volunteers.

“I chose Tennessee because of the amazing team and coaches,” she said. “I also love the success and environment of the team.”

During her sophomore year at the 2016-2017 IHSA Swimming & Diving Championships, Ungaretti and the Huskies turned in a historic showing.

 She became only the third OPRF girl (joining Kate Wendt and Marissa Lumkes) to win an individual state title when she captured the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.31 seconds at Evanston High School. Ungaretti also was runner-up in the 100 free (50.90).

In the relays at that state meet, she teamed with Hanna Blankemeier, Alex Gill and Samm Neilson in the 200-yard medley with a time of 1:43.94 to become just the third relay team in program history to win a championship. Like the 200 medley, Ungaretti anchored the Huskies’ 200 free relay, which placed fifth (1:35.94) in the state.

Led by Ungaretti and Blankemeier (now swimming at Yale), OPRF was fourth at the 2016-2017 state meet, marking the program’s best finish since 1989, when the Huskies won their second of back-to-back team state titles.

“I was just so proud of both myself and everyone on my relay team because we’ve just all worked so hard this whole season,” Ungaretti said after the meet. “We’ve had so many great competitors and great coaches helping us along the way. It’s been really great to see it all pay off.”

This season, Ungaretti recorded even faster times at state. She finished third in the 50 free (23.06) and fourth in the 100 free (50.34) in exceptionally fast races.

Looking ahead to her senior campaign, Ungaretti will be a top contender again to win state titles in both the 50 and 100 free.

“Knowing it’s my last season at OPRF, I am feeling super-motivated,” Ungaretti said. “I’m hoping to enjoy every minute of my last high school season.”

Aside from OPRF, Ungaretti swims with the prestigious Academy Bullets. She recently competed at NCSA Spring Championship in Orlando, Florida where she was a B finalist in the 100 free and a D finalist in the 50 free.

“Bullets has been a great move for me,” Ungaretti said. “I am enjoying where I’m at in swimming very much.”

This spring, she has also lowered her lifetime bests in the 200 free, 100 back, 50 breast, and 100/200/400 IM.

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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...

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