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Cross Country

Jackson cross country sweeps conference; Notre Dame’s Lauren Eftink wins girls race

Jackson senior Hunter Wendel and junior Bryce Gentry finished first and second, respectively, in this year’s SEMO North Conference Meet hosted at the City Park last Thursday. Submitted photo

Last Thursday at the City Park, the Jackson cross country program swept the SEMO North Conference Meet for the second year in a row.

The Indians boys and girls teams did so in dominant fashion as the Jackson boys won its ninth-straight conference championship by 50 points with team score of 18.

Jackson’s top-five scorers all placed in the top six as senior Hunter Wendel took first to claim his first-ever individual conference title. Wendel won the race with a time of 16 minutes, 31.1 seconds, while Indians junior and last year’s conference champion Bryce Gentry took second at 16:32.1.

“Hunter has been very focused on winning this race — he sets his goals, and he just goes after them,” Indians head coach Andrea Talley said. “He’s wanted this a long time, so this is really special for his senior year. [Winning conference] was the plan.

“We knew by the rankings and times off of MoMileSplit where they lined up against other runners. … We kind of see now where everybody stacks up on our team.”

Jackson also had the third-place finisher as senior Cole Puls crossed the finish line a little over 20 seconds later at 16:53.1, while fellow senior Evan Kiefer took fifth overall with a time of 17:10.6. The final finish to go toward the Indians final score was from sophomore Zach Brazel as he took seventh at 17:41.9.

Even though this didn’t go toward Jackson’s overall score, Indians senior Cade McCadams also earned SEMO All-Conference honors with a eighth-place finish of 17:51.6.

Also placing in the top 10 of the boys race to earn all-conference was Notre Dame senior Mason Morris, who took sixth place by posting a time of 17:39.2. The Bulldogs took second in the race with a team score of 68.

The other three runners to earn all-conference were Cape Central seniors Ryan Seabaugh (fourth place at 17:08.7) and Henry Rusten (ninth; 18:12.1), and Dexter senior Chris Stone (18:22).

Moving on to the girls conference race, Jackson won its second-straight conference championship by 27 points with a final score of 31. All five of the Indians top-five finishers garnered all-conference honors as sophomore Annika Barks took second place with a 20:42.3.

“Annika just went after it. She’s been having these severe side stitches, so we’ve been trying to figure that out,” Coach Talley said. “Some races she places high, and then in some races she’s been far back. We told her at practice, ‘You could get second place here,’ so she believed it and went after it. I’m really proud of her — she believed and didn’t hold back, and she looked comfortable and didn’t look like she was straining in any way.”

Notre Dame junior Lauren Eftink won the SEMO North Conference Girls Championship with a time of 20 minutes, 16.4 seconds. Photo by Jay Forness

Winning the race individually was Notre Dame junior Lauren Eftink as she crossed the finish line 25.9 seconds (20:16.4) ahead of Barks for her first-ever conference title. Eftink had been the race’s runner-up the last two seasons, including when the Bulldogs won the team championship over Jackson two years ago.

“Winning conference is amazing since I did place second two years in a row — finally winning it feels really good,” Eftink said. “This course is not easy because it’s long, so I knew I had to take it little by little. I grinded it out and just felt it out.”

Outside of Eftink, Notre Dame had one other runner earn all-conference honors as senior Molly Turner did so by finishing in sixth place at 21:33.3.

Also placing in the top five for the Indians was senior Mara Wilson as she took fifth place by recording a time of 21:23.4. Jackson then had three-straight all-conference finishes as Indians senior London Popp (21:36.2), freshman Anika Stephens (21:45.6) and freshman Emma Niebalski (21:50.1) took seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively.

“The girls team competed really well — London has had some back issues, so she’s been out for a little bit,” Coach Talley said. “Having her back for the first time in a while, she did very well. Emma and Anika are learning a lot from our seniors. … Our seniors have done a great job, and they’re just super nice people.”

The other runners to earn SEMO All-Conference medals were Cape Central sophomore Emily Marriott (third place at 20:54) and senior Lindsey Caldwell (fourth; 21:21.3), while Scott City junior Logan Schiwitz (10th; 22:03.7) did so as well.

As a team, Cape Central finished two points ahead of Notre Dame at 58 for the Tigers to come in second behind Jackson.
Only finishing one spot outside of the top 10 was Jackson senior Sadie Middleton in 11th place at 22:15.8, while Notre Dame freshman Lily Coy came in behind her at 12th (22:21.8).

The district meets will be held on Oct. 29 as the Indians compete in Class 5 District 1 and Notre Dame is in Class 4 District 1.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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