Sports dreams that came true in 2018

Foster, Rundell and Kaminski headline group of athletes who had an impact

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By Marty Farmer

Sports Editor

The Wednesday Journal sports year in review invariably features inspirational stories, provided mostly by OPRF and Fenwick high school athletes. Kids like Jake Rundell and Jacob Kaminski, who won state championships in wrestling for OPRF and Fenwick, respectively, come to mind.

However, if you're looking for something truly out of the ordinary, check out Scott Foster's incredible story below. The unassuming Oak Parker bats leadoff in our 2018 lineup of memorable stories.

Foster fills in for the Blackhawks

Scott Foster will never forget March 29, 2018. After finishing a typical day as an accountant at Golub Capital, the 36-year-old Oak Park resident spent the evening making his improbable NHL debut as emergency goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

Foster, who played college hockey at Western Michigan, had seven saves for a 1.000 save percentage in 14 minutes of action against the Winnipeg Jets and their third-ranked NHL offense. The Blackhawks won 6-2.

"A few hours ago, I was sitting at my computer typing on the 10-key, and now I'm standing in front of you guys, just finished 14 and a half minutes of NHL hockey," Foster told the media after the game. "From my perspective, this is a dream regardless. This is something that no one can ever take away from me; it's something I can go home and tell my kids."

OPRF softball denied three-peat

Lauren Derkowski essentially derailed the Huskies' bid for a third straight state title. The precocious freshman from York, who has committed to Michigan, tossed a two-hitter and struck out 13 in the Dukes' 6-1 win over OPRF in the Class 4A Niles West Sectional final. She also hit a 3-run homer against the Huskies.

"We knew [Derkowski] was a good pitcher," OPRF coach Mel Kolbusz said after the game. "She was on her game and shut us down."

OPRF finished 26-6 on the season.

"Anytime I get to coach outstanding young ladies like this group, it's a pleasure and a privilege," he said. "The last few years have been awesome. In 2015, we finished third in the state, first in 2016 and 2017. We were hoping for the three-peat this year, but sometimes things just don't go your way."

Huskie wrestlers take second in state

Despite the disappointment of losing to Montini 43-29 in a riveting Class 3A IHSA dual team state final, the Huskies are ensconced as one of the premier programs in the state.

"I think we wrestled great (at state)," said Jake Rundell, who won an individual state championship in the 106-pound weight class. "Everyone who stepped on the mat put forth their best effort for the family."

Over the past five years, the Huskies have earned three state titles (2014-2016), a quarterfinals appearance and state runner-up. 

Kaminski snags 195 state title

Fenwick wrestler Jacob Kaminski dominated on the mat all season. Kaminski (31-2) won a state championship in the 195-pound class in relatively comfortable fashion. He advanced to the semifinals in the individual state tourney in 2017 and finished the job in 2018 with a 7-1 decision over Rochelle's Alex Harvey in the championship bout at state.

Kaminski, also a standout in football, transferred to Wyoming Seminary (a prep school in Pennsylvania).

Malnati leaves Fenwick hoops

After five years as the Fenwick boys basketball head coach, Rick Malnati resigned from the position in April. Staunton Peck, an assistant coach under Malnati at Fenwick since 2013, is the new head coach.

Over five seasons, Malnati guided the Friars to a 122-33 record, highlighted by a 38-game winning streak and three straight titles in the Chicago Catholic League. In 2016-2017, Malnati led Fenwick to a 30-5 record and a Class 3A runner-up finish. In the Class 3A finals, Morgan Park edged the Friars 69-67 in overtime. Led by stars like Jacob Keller, Jamal Nixon and DJ Steward, the Friars recorded the best season in program history.

Not long after Malnati's departure, Steward and Damari Nixon transferred out of Fenwick to attend Whitney Young and Curie, respectively.

Fenwick water polo: Twice is nice

Since the Friars have won 30 state championships (20 boys, 10 girls) in water polo, the annual goal is apparent. Fenwick fell just short of its objective in 2018 as the boys and girls teams both finished second at the state finals.

Naperville Central scored four goals early en route to a 13-5 victory over Fenwick in the boys state final, while Stevenson defeated the Friars 12-7 on the girls side.

"We had our ups and downs this season," Fenwick boys coach Kyle Perry said. "You never want to lose your last game, but being able to play in the state championship game on a Saturday night is rewarding."

Fenwick returns team captains Payton Comstock, Dan Lynch and Ramses Flores, plus Alex Figus, Nate Fisher and Dan Badja next season. Paulina Correa (team-high 79 goals), Harper Daniels, Kassy Rodriguez and goalie Sam Rodriguez will lead the lady Friars in 2019.

Ungaretti's last laps

OPRF senior swimmer Natalie Ungaretti, who has committed to Tennessee, closed out her stellar high school swimming career with a pair of fourth-place finishes at the 2018 IHSA Swimming & Diving Championships.

"I'm happy with how I did," Ungaretti said. "I'm so proud of the team and all of my friends who swam so well."

Ungaretti placed fourth in both the 50-yard freestyle (23.09 seconds) and 100-yard freestyle (50.50 seconds). She accounted for all 22 points for OPRF, which came in 15th place in the team standings.

During her sophomore year, Ungaretti won an individual state title in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.31. She also was runner-up in the 100 free (50.90). In the relays at that state meet, Ungaretti teamed with Hanna Blankemeier, Alex Gill and Samm Neilson in the 200-yard medley, posting a time of 1:43.94 to become just the third relay team in program history to win a championship.

Friars flourish on ice

Fenwick girls hockey (15-2-5) produced a record seven all-state players as the team took second place in the Metro North playoffs and also made it to the Final Four of the Blackhawk Cup.  Scoring leaders Elllie Kaiser, Erin Proctor, Cecilia Jenkins, Megan Krikau, Caroline Jenkins, Emily Franciszkowicz, Sarah Steadman, Jenn Davis and goaltender Lena Flores (93 percentage on saves) led the Friars.

OPRF football overcomes odds

Before the regular season started, head coach John Hoerster suffered a heart attack during a family vacation. Even with Hoerster courageously back for the season opener, the Huskies began inauspiciously with a 1-2 record and several unproven starters.

However, the Huskies (8-3) won seven of eight games (including notable victories against Glenbard West and New Trier) and a share of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division championship the rest of the way.

Standouts such as Jaden McGill, Trevon Brown, Cedric Cheatham, Izaiah Ruffin fueled the team's turnaround.

"It's an amazing group of young men," Hoerster said. "Going into the season, we had a lot of questions that needed to be answered. We didn't know how good we could be. But we knew we were going to have tremendous leadership from the senior class."

Huskie hoops achieve perfection

The OPRF boys basketball team (21-5, 12-0) made history as the first squad in program history since the 14-team West Suburban Conference was created to go undefeated in league games.

OPRF earned that distinction with a 50-36 win against Proviso West on Feb. 17.

The Huskies clinched the West Suburban Silver with a 78-46 win against Hinsdale Central at the OPRF Field House on Feb. 13. The victory marked back-to-back conference titles for OPRF.

"Being back-to-back conference champions sounds great," center Malachi Ross said. "We haven't done that in a while. I'm happy I was able to do it with these guys in my senior year."

OPRF girls cross country makes mark

The OPRF girls cross country team capped off a superb postseason run by placing 10th at the Class 3A state finals. Competing at Detweiller Park in Peoria, the Huskies scored 318 points on Saturday in cool conditions.

"I am so proud of what the team accomplished at state this year," OPRF coach Ashley Raymond said. "We didn't have a front runner but we had seven girls who bought into the power of the pack."

The Huskies' 10th place finish ties the 1984 team for the best result ever at state finals in program history. OPRF has qualified for state nine times since 1979.

Nora Wollen, Violet Harper, Josephine Welin, Hannah Thompson, Samantha Duwe, Parker Hulen, Audrey Lewis and Maggie Rose Barron comprised the team.  

Friars excel in boys golf

Fenwick boys golf capped off a memorable season by finishing 10th at the Class 3A state finals. The Friars tallied a score of 319 (31-over) in very difficult conditions at the Den at Fox Greek golf course in Bloomington.

Josh Kirkham carded a 74 (2-over) to lead the team. Jackson Schaeffer (80), Jake Wiktor (82), Clark Davis (83) and Phil Sandor (84) were bunched together, all posting scores in the low-to-mid 80s. Padraig MeEnery carded an 89 for the Friars.

Fenwick qualified for state with runner-up finishes in both sectional (304) and regional (309) competitions.

During the regular season, the Friars went 11-0 in dual matches, highlighted by a 7-0 record in the Chicago Catholic League. The Friars also won invitational titles at Loyola and Mount Carmel and placed second at the CCL Championships and Homewood-Flossmoor Invitational.

Rivalry in pool

It's fitting that the OPRF and Fenwick high school boys swimming teams finished close in the standings of the IHSA State Finals.

Hosted by Evanston, the Friars tied Lake Park with 19 points apiece to finish 19th, while the Huskies tied Downers Grove North with 16 points each for 21st place on Saturday, Feb. 24.

Will Raidt and Liam Hutchinson, good friends who swim for OPRF and Fenwick, respectively, excelled at the state meet with a pair of impressive results.

In the 200-yard freestyle, Raidt finished sixth in the state with a time of 1 minute, 40.45 seconds. Hutchinson placed seventh (1:39.15, consolation final) right behind Raidt, who set an OPRF school record in the prelims with a personal-best time of 1:39.12.

At the Fenwick Sectional, Raidt (1:41.86) edged Hutchinson (1:42.10).

"We push each other to swim faster," Raidt said. "We are happy to see the other put up fast times."

Shumpert's busy year

February was an unforgettable month Oak Park native Iman Shumpert. The 6-foot-5 NBA guard, who graduated from OPRF, was acquired by the Sacramento Kings from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team deal that also included the Utah Jazz on Feb. 8.

A few weeks later, Shumpert purchased a home in River Forest for his parents, Odis and L'Tanya. Built in 1941, the French Normandy-style home contains five bedrooms and five-and-a-half bathrooms and stretches more than 4,400 square feet, according to a listing on Zillow.

Additionally, Teyana & Iman, a reality show about Shumpert and his wife Teyana Taylor, premiered on VH1 Feb. 19. Taylor is an R&B and hip hop recording artist, actress, dancer and model. They have a young daughter, Iman Tayla Shumpert Jr.

Other notable teams who fared very well in 2018: OPRF boys volleyball, OPRF boys soccer, Fenwick lacrosse, OPRF boys hockey, OPRF track and field, Fenwick girls swimming, Fenwick girls basketball, Fenwick girls soccer, Fenwick track and field

Contact:
Email: marty@oakpark.com Twitter: @OakParkSports

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