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Track and Field

Notre Dame’s Lauren Eftink once again named SEMO’s most valuable track performer

Notre Dame senior Lauren Eftink poses with the SEMO Conference Most Valuable Track Performer award plaque Saturday at Cape Central. Photo by Nick McNeal

On Saturday in her final SEMO Conference Meet, future Division-I runner Notre Dame senior Lauren Eftink continued to prove without a shadow of a doubt that she’s the top female runner in all of Southeast Missouri.

For the second-straight year, Eftink dominated any and every conference opponent she faced by winning all four events she competed in. This earned Lauren the title of the SEMO Conference Most Valuable Female Track Performer, which she also received last spring.

“I always love conference because it’s so much fun,” Eftink said. “It’s so surreal being a senior and it being my last time out here — oh my gosh. When you said, ‘senior,’ it kind of freaked me out a little bit.

“I was like, ‘Oh no, it’s my last one.’ It’s been fun all four years out here and to finish it off the way I did was really fun.”

Eftink’s first of four conference gold medals came in the 800-meter run as she won the race with a time of two minutes, 27.98 seconds. Lauren finished 1.35 seconds ahead of the race’s runner-up finisher Jackson sophomore Emma Niedbalski (2:29.33).

In her next event, Eftink won the 1600-meter run by crossing the finish line at 5:21.23 for a much wider margin of victory than she had in the 800.

Lauren completed the race 6.53 seconds faster than the second-place finisher in Jackson junior Annika Barks (5:27.76). Niedbalski was third place in the 1600 (5:33.65) behind Eftink.

To win her third and final individual gold medal at conference, Eftink was the only runner to finish the 3200-meter run in under 12 minutes with a time of 11:57.36.

Lauren turned on the jets in the final lap of the race to finish nearly 18 seconds ahead of the runner-up Barks’ finish (12:15.2).

From an outsider’s perspective, one might think Eftink has a heated rivalry with Jackson runners like Barks and Niedbalski. That isn’t the case, though, as these athletes look at it more like a friendly competition.

“It just keeps running fun, like, at the end of the day it’s running — it’s supposed to be fun,” Lauren said. “It makes it not as stressful, too, whenever you’re having fun with girls out there that are super sweet and kind at the line.

“They’re all so very motivating and very helpful with you after the race, so it just keeps it fun and light. It’s kind of my last fun race, but it’s also very competitive because it’s bragging rights around town. That’s what everyone views it as, so it’s a competitive fun race with fun stakes.”

The fourth and final SEMO Conference Championship Eftink won on Saturday was as a member of the 4×400-meter relay team.

Lauren did so with junior Lily Carr and sophomores Lily Brotherton and Grayson Mauer by posting a combined finish of 4:19.69. Brotherton also won the SEMO North title in the 400-meter dash at 1:03.71.

Bulldogs seniors Emma Duenne and Madelyn White also brought home SEMO North gold. Duenne won the shot put with a heave of 32 feet, seven and three quarter inches, as White placed first in long jump at 16-6.5.

Eftink now has her final postseason looming as Notre Dame will host the Class 3 District 1 Meet on Saturday. Last spring, Lauren won two district titles in the 1600 and 3200 and earned all-state in both events in Class 4.

“I’m super excited. I always like to just let the postseason happen,” Eftink said. “You never know what’s going to happen — something wild always does.”

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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