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Cross Country

Notre Dame cross country’s Lauren Eftink repeats as SEMO Conference Champion

Senior Lauren Eftink won her second-straight SEMO Conference Championship with a time of 19 minutes, 26.4 seconds last Thursday on her home course at Notre Dame. Photo by Nick McNeal

Last Thursday on her home course, Notre Dame’s star senior runner Lauren Eftink proved with ease once again that she’s the best in all of Southeast Missouri by winning the SEMO Conference Meet for the second-straight season.

Eftink became a two-time individual conference champion by recording a first-place finish of 19 minutes, 26.4 seconds, which was 32.7 seconds ahead of second place. Two days later, Lauren won the Farmington Invitational by finishing a race under 19 minutes for the second time this season at 18:53.56.

“I’m really honored and blessed [to win conference two years in a row] — it’s just so much fun,” Eftink said. “I’m super grateful for all the support and everybody that’s helped me get here, so I’m really excited.

Before winning the race these past two years, Eftink had placed second each time and even helped Notre Dame win the race as a team her freshman year back in 2020. Lauren credited her experience in the conference meet as to why she won the race so handedly.

“It was really cool to have conference here my senior season — my last conference meet at home. It kind of brought in all the feels — it was really cool and fun to have it here.”

The race actually had to have a restart as one runner accidentally tripped over another and fell to the ground at the start. While it didn’t throw a runner like Eftink off, she did say it was funky since the runners were a quarter-mile into the race when they started hearing someone scream, “Stop!”

Earning all-conference with Eftink by placing in the top 10 was Notre Dame sophomore Lily Coy, who took fourth place in the race by crossing the finish line at 20:56.1. Three other Bulldogs placed in the top 20 as well in freshman Maria Avila Henao (15th), junior Kolby Grimes (16th) and sophomore Anna Turner (20th).

“I really love my girls this year we’ve done a lot of team bonding and have gotten closer,” Lauren said. “As close as we are, it helps us to run for each other more.”

In the Missouri Southern Stampede on Sept. 16, Eftink set a new personal record by posting a time of 18:48.12. Lauren placed eighth overall in the race with this time that ranks her second all-time in school history behind Katie Hanners’ record of 18:30 that she set back in 2016.

“That was super fun — I loved that race,” Eftink said. “Last time I ran there was my sophomore year and that’s always been a fun meet to go to with the team. That course was awesome — there were a lot of good girls there.

“It was a lot of switch-backs, but it was a lot of fun. It was so crazy because you couldn’t see the time until you were almost passed it. I saw it and went crazy — I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ So it was fun.”

Outside of these three meets, Eftink started her senior campaign with a time of 19:41.77 to take 11th overall in the Memphis Twilight Classic Sept. 2. Lauren posted a time of that was more than 10 seconds faster at 19:31.7 in the Gans Creek Classic on Sept. 23, where she took 17th place.

Eftink and the Bulldogs now await the Class 3 District 1 Meet that they will host on Oct. 28. Prior to this season, Lauren has been competing in Class 4 due to MSHSAA’s championship success factor for private schools.

This hasn’t stopped Eftink from qualifying for state all three years, though, as she’s earned all-state honors the last two seasons. Lauren nearly cracked the top 10 in Class 4 last fall when she placed 11th overall, posting a time of 19:26.6 after taking second in districts at 19:15.3.

“I’m super excited — I always love postseason,” Eftink said. “It brings a new crazy energy to everybody — I love the postseason. It’ll be cool hosting districts here again, too.”

While Eftink is currently focusing on her senior season of cross country, she is still considering all of the options she has to run collegiately. Lauren’s older brother and former Notre Dame Bulldog Clayton Eftink is currently a senior on Southeast Missouri State’s cross country team.

“I’m super close with my brother — he’s my motivation and role model,” Lauren said. “I love my brother, and I wouldn’t have gotten into running if it weren’t for him. I really attribute a lot of my success to him.”

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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