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story.lead_photo.caption Fatima senior Kendall Haller (center) is flanked by senior teammates Alexis Fischer (left) and Sierra Sankey (right) at the start of Saturday's Class 2 girls state cross country championships at Gans Creek Cross Country Course in Columbia. Photo by Greg Jackson / News Tribune.

COLUMBIA — The Fatima Lady Comets had two Class 2 state championship streaks they were carrying into Saturday's race at Gans Creek Cross Country Course.

The big streak will continue, as the Lady Comets won their seventh straight state title, leading the team standings with 53 points. Father Tolton, which finished runner-up to Fatima in districts, did the same at state, taking second with 63 points.

"I knew the girls side was going to be tight, point-wise," Fatima coach Marc Bridges said. "I knew it was going to be a few points. On paper, it was supposed to be three or four points."

Fatima becomes the first girls program in Missouri high school cross country history with seven consecutive state championships. The Lady Comets had previously shared the record with Hamilton-Penney, which won six straight titles from 2004-09.

Now Fatima is tied with the Herculaneum boys (1977-83) for the most consecutive championships in state history.

"Seven in a row, that's quite an accomplishment," Bridges said.

Lawson was third in the team standings with 109 points and El Dorado Springs was fourth with 156.

However, Fatima's streak of five straight individual champions was snapped Saturday, as Brookfield's Alex Sharp won the title by nearly 30 seconds with a 5K time of 19:07.5.

"She's a great runner," Bridges said of Sharp, who is just a sophomore.

Fatima senior Kendall Haller, the defending Class 2 state champion, finished in sixth place out of 172 state qualifiers with a time of 19:52.6.

Brianna Haller won individual titles for Fatima from 2014-17. Although the streak ends in 2019, Kendall Haller was all-state every season, placing fifth at state as a freshman and finishing third as a sophomore.

"It is just unreal," Kendall Haller said. "Walking up to the stage, I got tears in my eyes. We did it."

Haller said she felt the pressure to repeat as state champion.

"But I knew as long as I did my best, everyone would be proud of me," she said.

Alexis Fischer joined Haller as a four-time state medalist. She finished 16th in Saturday's race with a time of 20:13.5.

Fischer placed 19th in 2016, 25th in 2017 and seventh last season.

"Alexis has been a definite boost to our team for the last four years," Bridges said.

Another senior, Sierra Sankey, earned her first all-state honor with a 19th-place finish in 20:15.3.

Tolton had four runners finish in the top 30, but the Lady Trailblazers' fifth runner came in 44th place. Fatima secured the team championship with a 33rd-place finish by Emma Bower (20:45.4) and a 36th-place finish by Kailey Woody (20:50.9).

"Good teams will always have good runners up front, and it comes down to the fourth, fifth, sixth runners," Bridges said. "I was real pleased with Kailey and Emma Bower really pushing hard to get into position. If they let off just a little, we don't get that trophy."

Sarah Groene took 54th in 21:32.4 and Corinn Karst placed 102nd in 22:40.4 for the Lady Comets. Groene, Karst and Bower were all making their first state appearance as freshmen.

Six of Fatima's seven runners posted season-best times at state.

"What more do you want?" Bridges asked. "They go out and they run their best race of the year at the last race of the year. That's what we try to do."

Between the first and the fifth kilometers, Sankey improved 16 spots in the individual standings, while Haller moved up 12 spots.

"We knew that the second loop was going to be a lot tougher than the first loop because it was longer, and that's where the pain would start to set in," Sankey said. "We used that experience to help push ourselves more."

With the move from the Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City, the Lady Comets were able to adjust and prepare for Gans Creek, a new state site this season.

"We raced on some flatter courses, a few faster courses," Bridges said. "It helped out, it paid off."

The Fatima girls graduate five seniors from this year's team, including four who ran in Saturday's race.

But the target will continue to be on the Lady Comets' back for another offseason.

"Next year, I think the girls have a chance of getting back on the podium," Fischer said. "They're just going to have to work hard, just like how we all came up together and worked hard from freshman year.

"It's a lot of pressure, but I think they can do it too."

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