The Yates Center boys cross country team will be shooting
for a bit of school history when the class 2A state championships take place
Saturday in Wamego.
Yates Center has never had an individual or team state
champion in cross country, but this year, they have a great chance at both.
Junior Hadley Splechter is a strong bet to win the individual title, having run
16:01 this season - the best in class 2A.
Splechter won the Burlington regional this past weekend by
more than a minute, and his time of 16:06 was nearly a minute better than all
of the other regional winners. He placed second in the Rim Rock Classic's Blue
Division race in late September, in a close battle with class 4A defending
champion Lakelin Conrad of Wichita Collegiate.
Splechter was the class 2A state runner-up in cross country
last year, and followed that up with a pair of state titles in the 1600 and
3200 on the track.
But he is not a lock for the 2A cross country title. Henry Nelson of Bishop Seabury, who won the Riley County regional this past weekend
in a stiff wind, has run 16:05 for 5K this season and has the division's
second-best time. He was tenth at the class 2A state meet a year ago.
Ethan Thompson of Meade, a junior, was third in the class 2A
state meet last year, and has a season-best of 16:33. Cooper Mumford of Kansas City Christian has a season best of 16:46 and was 15th at the state meet last
Among class 2A boys team, Yates Center has by far the best
1-2-3 combination. Colin Bedell has run 16:46 this season, and was fourth at
the state meet last year. Jordan Smith has run 17:19 and was seventh at state
The key to Yates Center's state title hopes is their fourth
and fifth runners, and both seem to have upward momentum. Kobe Forsyth ran a
career best 18:39 at the regional meet (a 36 second PR on the Burlington
course), and Asher Seivers clocked 19:03, just a couple seconds off a career
The team that most likely stands in the way of Yates Center
is Bennington, which also can capture a piece of school history by winning on
Saturday. Bennington has won four state titles in girls cross country, but has
never taken home the boys' title.
The Bulldog boys have the best packing team in class 2A and
that's what it's going to take to deny Yates Center. Bennington could put five
runners in the top 20 and has posted pack times as low as 43 seconds this
season. In cross country, that is quite often the winning formula.
The Bennington girls, on the other hand, are just pure raw
power on the course. Barring disaster, they are not likely to be challenged for
the team title, which would be the fifth ever for the school. They also won in
2006, 2007, 2009 and 2016. They return their entire top five from last year's
Bishop Seabury and Berean Academy have the inside track for
second and third place, though Ellinwood, West Elk and Kansas City
Christian could sneak their way onto the podium.
Senior Halle Johnson of Bennington is the odds-on favorite
to win the individual title. She swept the 800, 1600 and 3200 meter titles on
the track last spring, and has reeled off six straight wins heading into this
Two of those wins came against Sylvan-Lucas superstar Autumn
Princ, the class 1A state cross country champion, and another came against a
strong field in the Rim Rock Classic Blue Division in late September. Johnson
also has the best 5K time by a Kansas girl this season, clocking 18:11 to win
the Beloit Invitational just five days after winning at Rim Rock.
Other top contenders for the individual title include
Lincoln freshman Jaycee Vath, who has a season-best of 19:22; five-time state
medalist in cross country and track and field Erin Topham of Berean Academy;
and Trego Community sisters Helen Giefer and Sybil Giefer, who were sixth and
seventh at the state meet last year.
Halle Johnson's sister, Kya Johnson, was the 2A state
champion as a freshman in 2015, and state runner-up last year. She will run on
Saturday and should finish in the top 10, but has been hampered this season by
CLASS 2A SNAPSHOT
Boys Teams Competing -
Bennington, Ell-Saline, Kansas City Christian, Meade, Oakley, Skyline (Pratt),
Stanton County, Trego Community, Wabaunsee, West Elk, Wichita County, Yates
Girls Teams Competing
- Bennington, Berean Academy, Bishop Seabury, Ellinwood, Kansas City Christian,
Kiowa County, Lyndon, St. Mary's Colgan, Sacred Heart, Stanton County,
Syracuse, Trego Community.
Race Times: 2A
boys at 10:35 a.m., 2A girls at 12:20 p.m. at the Wamego Country Club.
champions Bennington boys and Bennington girls; individual champions Hadley
Splechter of Yates Center and Halle Johnson of Bennington.