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Cross Country

Lauren Eftink makes Notre Dame cross country history at state

Notre Dame cross country senior Lauren Eftink took second place in the Class 3 State Meet with a new school-record time of 18 minutes, 29.7 seconds on Saturday in Columbia. Photo by Roddy Baz

In the final state meet of her cross country career on Saturday in Columbia, Notre Dame senior Lauren Eftink proved to be one of the best — if not the best — runner in school history.

Eftink did so by recording the highest placement at state in school history (girls or boys) by taking second overall in the Class 3 State Meet. Lauren broke the girls school record 5K to accomplish the feat with a time of 18 minutes, 29.7 seconds as she only finished 2.7 seconds behind first place.

Eftink broke her own personal record not once but three times this season as she set a new PR at districts with a time of 18:43.7 before besting that time at state this weekend. Lauren broke the previous Notre Dame 5K record by .3 seconds, which was held by Katie Hanners since 2016.

“I feel incredibly honored and blessed — it’s still surreal for me, and I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” Eftink said. “I’m very grateful for the support I’ve gotten, especially from my family, over the four years I’ve been running. It means a lot to me that I’ve made those who believed in me proud.”

Winning the individual Class 3 State Championship with a time two seconds faster than Eftink at 18:27 was Southern Boone senior Alexandra Volkart. This was the second-straight state title for Volkart as she won the same race last fall.

Behind Volkart and Eftink in third place was St. Charles West freshman Brianna Krueger, who crossed the finish line at 18:35.5. St. Michael senior Elsa Henry wasn’t too far behind the top three as she posted a time of 18:42.7 for fourth place, as Eldon senior Zoe Martonfi took fifth at 18:49.8.

“Going into the race, I knew it would be tight with a lot of solid competitors,” Eftink said. “I was pretty calm leading up to the race, and I carried that over into the first of it. Then as I started moving up, the race was on and there was a lot of back and forth in the lead pack for a while. Then heading into the last kilometer, I started to push and finished strong.”

This is the third and final all-state medal of Lauren’s prestigious career at Notre Dame as she took 11th place her junior year in Class 4. Eftink, who is a four-time state qualifier, earned all-state for the first time by placing 22nd overall as a sophomore. Lauren is the fourth cross country runner in school history to earn all-state three times.

Only three other runners in school history — boys or girls — have ever earned all-state three times in their careers. Alaina Baumgart was a four-time all-state medalist for Notre Dame’s girls team (2014-17), while Dillon Klaffer (2006-08) and Blake Morris (2017-19) earned three all-state medals on the boys team.

“Each year presented its own struggles for example managing time between athletics and academics,” Eftink said. “Then starting out early in Class 4 and switching to Class 3 [this year], which wasn’t much of a difference in competition.”

One other Bulldog brought home an all-state medal along with Eftink as Notre Dame sophomore Lily Coy came up with a 26th-place finish at 19:49 to earn the honor for the first time in her career. Also placing inside the top 100 for the Bulldogs was another underclassmen in freshman Maria Avila Henao, who finished in 86th place by crossing the finish line at 21:28.6.

Notre Dame junior Kolby Grimes ended up finishing in the top 150 at 145th place (23:05.7), while sophomore Anna Turner took 159th overall (24:01.8). These five finishes put the Bulldogs in 10th place with a score of 247 as St. Charles West won the Class 3 State Championship with 55 points.

“I’m very proud of our team this year — we have all grown to have such a tight bond,” Eftink said. “I feel like that really helped us to compete well for each other, and I’m very honored to have led such a fun group this year.”

Along with finishing her high school cross country career as a three-time all-state medalist, Eftink also won her first-ever district championship and a second-straight SEMO Conference title in her final season at Notre Dame.

“I would say I’m most proud of how I have grown in my faith throughout [my cross country career],” Lauren said. “There have been many ups and downs throughout the years, and I have grown to trust God through it. I’m proud to say that I run All For His Glory!”

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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