By Marty Farmer
While a few teams are still competing in the state playoffs (results will be posted at www.oakpark.com), another memorable high school sports year is winding down. Here's a look back at some of the top teams and athletes of the 2018-2019 season:
Fenwick hockey wins state
The Friars capped off their dream season with a 3-2 win over defending state champion New Trier, 3-2, in the girls hockey state final at the United Center.
Fenwick (24-1-5) earned its first state title in program history by scoring three unanswered goals against the Trevians. Ellie Kaiser scored the game-winner off an assist from Erin Proctor.
"Winning state feels amazing. There's nothing like it," Kaiser said. "Our fans and the Blackhawks made it an unbelievable experience that I don't think any of us will forget. It is truly one for the books."
Kaiser (45 goals, 15 assists), Proctor (34 goals, 24 assists ), Kelly Millins (19 goals, 35 assists), Cecilia Jenkins (19 goals, 18 assists), Katie Gobber, Sarah Steadman, Emily Franciszkowicz, Caroline Jenkins and goalie Lena Flores (473 saves) earned recognition as all-state players.
OPRF wrestling takes second
Montini defeated the Huskies 41-18 in the IHSA Dual Team State Tournament finals at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington.
The Broncos, who have won 15 state titles since 2000, also beat OPRF by a score of 43-29 in the 2018 3A state final.
Despite losing their final match, the Huskies enjoyed another banner season under the guidance of veteran head coach Paul Collins and the rest of the coaching staff.
The Huskies reeled off three straight fiercely contested dual victories to meet Montini in the finals. OPRF edged Glenbard North 33-31 in a sectional dual, followed by close victories over Lockport 34-30 in the quarterfinals and Marmion 32-27 in the semifinals.
At the IHSA Individual State Tournament, 132-pound state champ Eddie Bolivar led a contingent of six OPRF grapplers who medaled at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
After a runner-up finish last season (16-1 tech fall loss against Montini's 3-time state champ Real Woods), Bolivar took the final step with a 7-5 decision against Libertyville's Danny Pucino.
Ashford Hollis (285-pound class) earned third, while Josh Ogunsanya (126) and Joe Chapman (152) placed fourth in their respective classes. Nico Bolivar took fifth at 120 and Daemyen Middlebrooks finished sixth at 182.
Friars' water polo contends again
The Fenwick boys water polo team strives to win its last match every season. With 20 state championships in the Friars' trophy cases, the annual objective is to be the best.
Although Fenwick won its last game this spring, the 17-11 victory over Lincoln-Way East unfortunately occurred in the third-place game of the IHSA state finals.
"Despite the disappointing finish, I think the team has a lot to be proud of," senior Nate Fisher said. "For us seniors to leave without ever bringing a state championship trophy home is tough, but we also know that we finished with our best season. We are leaving Fenwick water polo in a good place and in good hands."
The girls team entered the state quarterfinals against Mother McAuley feeling confident about making a run toward the program's 11th state championship. Unfortunately, that pursuit will have to wait until next year as Fenwick fell to the Mighty Macs, 9-8.
The Friars had an opportunity to tie the match in the closing seconds; however, a shot by senior Paulina Correa hit the post at the final buzzer.
"I'm obviously upset about the game because it wasn't supposed to end that way," Correa said. "We weren't all there mentally as a team, but we played to the best of our ability. It just wasn't our day and it was a life-learning experience."
Hoerster inspires Huskies
OPRF head football coach John Hoerster suffered a major heart attack last summer, but the determination shown during his recovery motivated the Huskies to have their most successful season in 20 years.
OPRF (8-3) clinched a share of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division with Glenbard West and Hinsdale Central. The conference title marked the first time since 1998 that OPRF has finished atop the league. The Huskies also defeated Glenbard West 10-7, a feat not done since 2007.
In the Class 8A playoffs, OPRF opened at home with an impressive 34-16 win over New Trier. The following week, the Huskies traveled to Chicago's South Side to face top-seeded Brother Rice. Despite a tremendous all-around game from wide receiver/safety Trevon Brown and forcing three consecutive Brother Rice turnovers, OPRF lost 27-17.
"I'm going to miss the hell out of them," Hoerster said about the OPRF seniors. "It's an amazing group of young men. We didn't know how good we could be, but we knew we were going to have tremendous leadership from the senior class."
OPRF boys track excels at state
The Huskies capped off another excellent campaign by finishing third in the team standings at the IHSA state meet, hosted by Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. OPRF scored 30 points, trailing only champion Crete-Monee (60) and runner-up Homewood-Flossmoor (46).
The Huskies scored well due to their impressive depth. Seniors Mykolas Saloninas placed third (59 feet, 4 inches) and Keon Gilbert eighth (56 feet, 2.25 inches), respectively, in the shot put.
In the 110-meter high hurdles, senior JT Lowder came in second at 14.05 seconds, behind state champ Victor Cameron of Crete-Monee (13.93). Fellow OPRF senior Koren Leonard took seventh in the state in the 300 intermediate hurdles in a time of 40.04. Senior Amir Blanchard also ran well, taking eighth in the 200 in a time of 22.27.
In the 800 relay, the quartet of Dallas Rapharoah, Tyrone Clarke, Naz Bryant and Blancard notched second at 1:27.41.
Friendly rivalry in pool
Fenwick senior Liam Hutchinson and OPRF junior Will Raidt are friends and rivals in swimming.
The Notre Dame-bound Hutchinson won a state championship in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4 minutes, 24.47 seconds.
"To become a state champion is a great feeling," Hutchinson said. "Coming into senior year, I knew it would be my last chance, so I feel I put in the proper preparation to win this year."
Hutchinson's 500-free time broke the school record (4:26.12) set by the Friars' Robert Ramoska who won a pair of state titles in 1978.
Hutchinson just missed winning another state title in the 200-yard freestyle, placing second with a time of 1:38.16. In the 200-free, Hutchinson edged Raidt, who touched the wall at 1:38.97 to place third.
"It's always fun racing Liam in the 200 free," Raidt said. "It's awesome that two of the three fastest 200 freestylers in the state are from Oak Park and River Forest schools."
Raidt also placed eighth in the 100-yard butterfly finals (50.03).
Fenwick scored 55 points to earn 11th, while the Huskies finished 13th with 23 points at state.
Ungaretti caps off swimming career
OPRF senior Natalie Ungaretti, who has committed to the University of Tennessee, closed out her high school swimming career with a pair of fourth-place finishes at the 2018 IHSA Swimming & Diving Championships.
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 the Huskies, who placed 15th in the team standings.
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, 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.
Her next challenge: making a splash in football-mad Southeastern Conference country.
"I am beyond excited," Ungaretti said about Tennessee. "I know it's going to be an amazing time with great coaches and a supportive team."
OPRF badminton nets 10th in state
The Huskies tied Buffalo Grove for 10th at the state finals, hosted by Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
The doubles teams of Halley Bergen/Emma Proctor and Maya Jamroz/Nelida Schalich-Allyon combined to score four of the Huskies' five points. Bergen/Proctor went 3-2 and Jamroz/Schalich 2-2 in matches.
In singles, the Huskies' Olivia Remington defeated Willowbrook's Charlotte Dewyer 22-20, 21-17 in first-round action before losing her remaining two matches.
Friar basketball returns to sectional
Nazareth defeated Fenwick in a girls basketball sectional final for the second straight season. Harvard-bound Annie Stritzel delivered a special performance, scoring 36 points to carry the Roadrunners past the Friars 46-37.
Prized freshmen forwards Elise Heneghan (10 rebounds) and Audrey Hinrichs led Fenwick with eight points apiece. Lauren Hall chipped in seven points and Lily Reardon six for the Friars (23-12).
"I think we did really well this season," Hall said. "We played as a team with everyone contributing. This is one of the best teams I've ever played on."
Huskies three-peat in hoops
The OPRF boys basketball team, which has won 36 of 39 conference games the past three years, fittingly earned its third straight West Suburban Silver title this season.
Other highlights included a pair of wins over York and a victory over West Aurora at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. Anthony Roberts, Charlie Hoehne and Chase Robinson earned all-conference recognition, while fellow senior Dashon Enoch also enjoyed a successful career with the Huskies.
"It's a very tight-knit group. I'm going to miss those guys," coach Matt Maloney said. "Those four have been tremendous in practices and games."
Fenwick track wins first sectional
The Friars scored 153 points to win the Glenbard South Sectional in Glen Ellyn. The victory marked the first sectional championship in program history. In the winning process, the team also advanced two relays and six individuals to the IHSA state finals.
"Winning sectionals was an indescribable experience," senior Colleen Grogan said. "Our team worked extremely hard this year so receiving that title made all the hard work worth it. This season has been one of my favorites because the team has really connected, which is essential even for a seemingly more individual sport like track. The girls on this team are so determined and everyone contributed to the sectional title in their own way."
Sophomore jumper Delaney Seligmann notched wins in both the high jump (4-11) and the triple jump (34-7), plus a runner-up finish in the long jump (16-10.5).
Grogan advanced downstate for the fourth consecutive year, winning the 300 hurdles in a time of 50.10.
Sophomore Maria Quinn (800 meters/2:25.27), sophomore Katie Cahill (3,200/12:02.40) and senior Claire Gatermann (pole vault/10 feet) won individual events as well for Fenwick. Freshman Amanda Behrend also qualified for the state finals, taking second in the high jump with a measurement of 4-9.
The Friars earned victories in two relays with top times in the 1,600 (Maggie Van Ermen, Quinn, Seligmann, and Natalia Kuchinic; 4:19.96) and the 3,200 (Marie O'Brien, Van Ermen, Laura Durkin, and Quinn; 10:02.38).
"Overall we were very pleased with how the season progressed," coach Dale Heidloff said. "Through our senior leaders, the underclassmen certainly improved and became ready for the sectional competition."
OPRF soccer on the rise
In three seasons, boys soccer coach Jason Fried has established a very good program. And with seven returning starters next fall, the Huskies' best might still be to come.
OPRF (18-4-2) earned a share of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division championship for the second year in a row, along with winning the Leyden Challenge Cup and Argo Regional.
The Huskies' season ended with a 1-0 loss against Lyons Township in the final of the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional. OPRF upset top-seeded Morton 1-0 in a riveting semifinal.
All-conference goalie Sam Pecenka had 11 shutouts, while all-sectional pick Jaime Guillen (21 goals, 10 assists) and all-state selection James Maguire (10 goals, 12 assists) led offensively. Guillen is an exchange student from Spain and Maguire a three-year varsity starter. Brody Bliss and Paul Garcia scored 11 goals apiece. Defensively, all-conference players Blake Soto, Jai Hsieh-Bailey and Dylan Whitney anchored a formidable backfield.
"With a totally different group of guys, this year was even better than the previous ones," Fried said. "We are proud about the status of the program."
Huskie cross country hits stride
The OPRF girls cross country team capped off an excellent postseason run by placing 10th at the Class 3A state finals. Competing at Detweiller Park in Peoria, the Huskies scored 318 points in cool conditions.
"I am so proud of what the team accomplished at state this year," coach Ashley Raymond said. "We didn't have a front runner but we had seven girls who bought into the power of the pack. We had seven girls who were willing to give it their all for their teammates and it paid off."
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.
Sophomore Nora Wollen led the Huskies with a time of 17 minutes, 36.7 seconds to finish 49th. Her pace was 5:52 per mile over the course.
Senior Violet Harper (17:56.4/70th place), freshman Josephine Welin (18:02.1/80th), Hannah Thompson (18:12.2/102nd) and freshman Samantha Duwe (18:16.7/113th) were the Huskies' other top runners. Sophomore Parker Hulen and junior Audrey Lewis recorded times of 18:26.2 and 19:18.3, respectively, for OPRF.
As of this publication date, some teams are still alive in the state playoffs in their respective sports. Notable area teams include: OPRF, Fenwick and Trinity softball; OPRF baseball; OPRF boys volleyball.
-Melvin Tate contributed to this story.
Answer Book 2019
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