State goes swimmingly


State champion 4×200 relay team

The banners in the girls pool displaying records held by some of the fastest swimmers in OPRF history is a daunting sight. Names and times on the wall tell stories of greatness and the program’s rich history. At first, you gloss over the unfamiliar names, but then you notice goosebumps on your arms… is it because of the rigidly cold air in that old, decrepit pool or because you realize you’re entering a pool where history has been made? As your goggles become less foggy, you look closely at names on the wall and see some of those names are of present-day student-athletes. You see the name Ungaretti and there is a reason it catches your eyes besides the peculiar spelling, the name shows up again and again. You can only begin to fathom sophomore Natalie Ungaretti is on her way to becoming one of the most decorated swimmers in OPRF girls swimming history.

Led by Ungaretti, the Huskies placed fourth with 103 points at the state meet on Nov. 19 at Evanston High School. Ungaretti became the school’s first female swimmer to win two events; she won the 50-yard freestyle (23.31 seconds) breaking her own school record. “I had dreamed about winning the 50 and that was my motivation most of the season, but I was also so proud of getting second in the 100, because I used to limit myself by saying I could only swim the 50. there was definitely a lot of growth individually and for the team this year,” said Ungaretti. She also anchored the Huskies’ first-place 200-yard medley relay (1:43.94).

Sophomore Natalie Ungaretti

More than Ungaretti’s success had a major impact on her teammates. “Natalie’s accomplishments kept the team positive and excited for the rest of our performances. She had a really positive attitude the whole season, definitely contributing to her great performances and the overall confidence of the team,” said senior Hanna Blankemeier.

Ungaretti holds both the pool and school record in the 50, and she’s part of both school and pool record relays for the 200 medley, 200 free, and 400 free.

What banners on the walls don’t tell you are the stories of teamwork and heart. Blankemeier, junior Alexandra Gill, junior Samantha Neilson and Ungaretti teamed up to open state finals in the 200-yard medley, an event in which OPRF placed second last season. The Huskies were fifth entering the final leg and there appeared to be no hope for the Huskies… until Ungaretti swam a heroic 22.54 and passed those in her way. “Knowing that the four of us had been training and dreaming to win for so long made it really special,” said Ungaretti.

Another familiar name you may find on those banners is Blankemeier. The Yale recruit finished fourth in the 100 free (51.49) and swam in the fifth-place 200 freestyle relay that also included Neilson, Gill and Ungaretti.

She holds the 200-medley relay school and pool record, 200-freestyle relay school and pool record, 400-freestyle relay school and pool record, 200- individual medley school record, 200-freestyle school record, and the 100-freestyle school record.

OPRF coach Clyde Lundgren said Blankemeier was the leader behind OPRF’s improvement this season after placing sixth last season. “Hanna has always been such a role model to the team, but being the captain this year really allowed her to show what an amazing leader she is,” says Ungaretti, “She guided us all through the hardest parts of the season and was always inspirational and motivational.”