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Track and Field

Lauren Eftink wins state title to put Notre Dame on podium for first time

Notre Dame track and field senior Lauren Eftink became a Class 3 State Champion by winning the 3200-meter run with a new school-record time of 11 minutes, 9.28 seconds. She also earned all-state medals by taking third in the 800-meter (2:18.35) and 1600-meter races (5:08.09; new school record). Photo by Nick McNeal

This past weekend, there were plenty of lasts for Notre Dame star senior runner Lauren Eftink as she competed in her final high school track and field meet on Friday and Saturday. She also graduated the very next day with Summa Cum Laude honors for maintaining a grade point average of 4.0.

Eftink was given a gold honor stole for her academic achievement, but she was also sporting a gold medal that day, which she received the day prior. Lauren had this medal from winning her first state championship.

On Saturday at Jefferson City, Eftink became a state champion in the Class 3 3200-meter run, which also happened to be the final race of her high school career. Lauren started running as a freshman and will, of course, continue doing so at local university Southeast Missouri State.

“My last few steps before the line felt surreal. My freshman year I didn’t make it out of districts, and I dreamed of making it to state,” she said. “So to cross that line as a state champion was a dream come true! So many thoughts and emotions rushed through my head as I tried to soak it all in.

“I thought about all those I loved, my family and everything that had gotten me to that moment. I also thought about how God had worked through the years and how He had a perfect plan all along.”

Along with winning a state title in the 3200, Eftink broke her own school record in the race by posting a finish of 11 minutes, 09.26 seconds. Lauren certainly needed to have a time like this in order to beat Southern Boone senior Alexandra Volkart, who finished 1.14 seconds behind Eftink at 11:10.4 for the silver medal.

Prior to the 3200, Eftink and Volkart had raced against each other the day before in the 1600-meter run, where Lauren finished third at 5:08.09 and Alexandra came in fourth behind her with a time of 5:11.9.

“It was so much fun racing with those girls and pushing each other throughout the race,” Eftink said. “The last lap [in the 3200] there was a lot of back and forth and it all came down to that last 100-meter stretch. Making the final turn and seeing the line, I had so many thoughts rush through my mind.

“I believe it was God giving me the strength to finish with everything I had left that truly carried me those last few strides. It was also my pure love of running and wanting to make those I loved proud that further helped me pull away from Alexandra.”

Going back to the 1600, Eftink also broke her own school record with her time to become a three-time all-state medalist in the event. Eldon senior Zoe Martonfi won the 1600 (4:59.75), and she was also the state champion in the 800-meter run (2:13.69) that Lauren placed third in as well with a time of 2:18.35.

Eftink finishes her high school track career as a six-time all-state medalist as she is a state champion and two-time all-state medalist in the 3200, a three-time all-state medalist in the 1600 and a one-time all-stater in the 800. She also earned three all-state medals in cross country.

“I’m so grateful to have placed third in the 1600 and 800 racing with some incredible girls! Those races were both intense and fast but that made them that much more exhilarating! Looking up at the board and seeing that I broke my record I felt so satisfied.

“Then in the 3200, I was shocked because it was so incredibly hot. With that being my final race in my Notre Dame baby blue jersey, I couldn’t help but feel so overwhelmed and happy when I saw that I not only won but had broken my record.

“It was the best way to end my high school career. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to cross that last finish line. Freshman Lauren couldn’t have dreamed for a more perfect way to end my high school running career!”

Eftink’s three all-state medals led her to scoring 22 (10 for first place and six for each third-place finish) of the Notre Dame girls team’s 35 points. This total secured the Bulldogs program as a whole their first-ever state plaque since its inception in 1931.

Also earning an all-state medal for Notre Dame was senior Emma Duenne, junior Abbie Spooler and sophomore Grayson Maurer. Both Duenne and Spooler took third in their respective events, which were discus throw (123 feet, zero inches) and pole vault (10-11.5).

Maurer finished eighth in the triple jump with a mark of 35-1.75 for one point, but this one point was crucial in preventing a tiebreaker with fourth-place Mountain Grove that scored 34 points.

Notre Dame’s boys team also had one all-state finisher in freshman Trenton Powell, who took seventh in the 300-meter hurdles with a new school record time of 40.96. The previous record stood for 19 years.

“I knew heading into that last race that the team scores were very close,” Eftink recalled. “Even with my 3200 points, we were still close to other schools, and I will never forget watching the final races with my team waiting to see the final scores. I didn’t realize that Notre Dame had a track team since 1931, let alone that we had never brought home a trophy.

“To be the first team to bring home a podium finish is one of those moments you will never forget. There are no words to describe how it felt to walk with my girls to the podium and then hold that plaque up for them.”

Being a part of the first Notre Dame squad to ever finish on a state podium in its 93-year existence will be something that Lauren and her teammates will certainly never forget.

Thankfully for Eftink, she’s someone who lives in the moment and doesn’t dwell on the past or worry about the future, which helps her make this year’s Class 3 State Meet something she can always look back on.

“This weekend has been one of the greatest weekends I’ve yet to experience,” Eftink said. “The love, laughter and unforgettable memories from state were so special. I have never laughed and cried so hard with a team before. A few of my favorite moments were being with the team, racing, and then seeing loved ones after I finished.”

“The races were so unforgettable and fun. The 3200 race was incredible and standing on the podium after that one was a moment I’ll never forget. Then seeing my family and coaches after that race was also amazing.

“Hearing my brother yell for me after my 3200M win, I felt such joy and happiness that I had made him proud. Then hugging him, my family, and teammates I felt such love and gratitude for all of them.

“Lastly, walking my last lap around the Notre Dame track with the team and incredible people is another moment I will cherish forever. It was so hard saying good bye to such an amazing group that I had grown so close with.”

Another memory Eftink will have about the Notre Dame track and field program is how her head coach Ryan Long always makes sure his athletes feel appreciated by not just the staff but the entire school. Coach Long has made it a tradition that students write notes of inspiration for his state qualifiers.

“Coach Long makes the state trip such an amazing experience, and the letters are one of my favorite traditions,” Eftink said. “Receiving letters from teammates, other friends, and family members helped me to remember my past and all those who had made my dreams possible.

“The amount of love in those letters helped me to breathe and remember that I was more than just a runner, but I had an amazing opportunity to accomplish something for everyone I love.”

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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