Splechter Wins Another Title; Giefer Tops 2A Girls

Yates Center's Hadley Splechter and Meade's Ethan Thompson gave a fitting farewell in their final race at the class 2A state cross country championships in Wamego on Saturday.

The duo has dominated class 2A distance running for the past year and one-half, Splechter emerging during that time as the state's best runner regardless of classification and Thompson posting three consecutive runner-up finishes.


That pattern continued on Saturday as Splechter raced to his seventh state title - and second consecutive cross country crown - with a time of 15:57.5. And again Thompson was a warrior, fighting throughout to stay with Splechter but again finishing in second, 16:28.7.


As expected, the duo left the rest of the field early in Saturday's race. Splechter then got away from Thompson and cruised to a fairly easy win.


Last year, Splechter became the first-ever state cross country champion from Yates Center, so now he pushes his legacy to that of back-to-back champion. He led Yates Center to the team title last year, also the first-ever for that school, but his team failed to qualify this year.


Instead, a couple of schools with a bit more cross country history climbed to the top of the podium. Central Heights (Richmond) put three runners in the top 16 en route to a 58 point score and 28-point victory over Stanton County (86 points). Northern Heights was third at 136.


Central Heights, which last won a state championship in 1990, was led by Tyler Stevenson (eighth, 17:33.9), Alex Cannady (13th, 17:46.0) and senior Caleb Meyer (16th, 18:02). It's the third state championship ever for Central Heights' boys; they were the class 3A runner-up last year.


Stanton County placed third a year ago but returned 6 of 7 runners from that squad, which indicated they had a strong shot at the state title. The school has won eight boys' cross country titles, though none since 2004. This year, however, they were only able to improve one more place.


Isiah Barrera led Stanton County with a fifth place finish in 17:28.4. Taj Bailey keyed Northern Heights' podium finish, placing 12th in 17:43.5.


Helen Giefer of Trego Community won the second state title of her high school career, running to a win in 19:20.0 on Saturday. She was third at the state cross country meet last year, and won the 3200 meter run at last spring's track and field championships. She's just the second individual state cross champion ever from Trego.


Giefer entered this year's state meet with a PR that was nearly 45 seconds better than anyone else in the field, and her dominance in the division was on full display. Alysia Wagner of Kansas City Christian placed second in 20:20.5 while Sybil Giefer of Trego was third in 20:39.1.


The 1-3 finish by the Giefer sisters just about salvaged a team title for Trego Community. But Ellinwood was up to the test, scoring 102 points to edge Trego Community, which scored 110. Two-time defending champion Bennington was third with 127 points.


Erin Hammeke of Ellinwood led her team's win, placing fourth in a time of 20:40.5. Ashtin Klepper also placed 11th in 21:15.9. It's just the second state championship ever for Ellinwood's girls, the first coming in 2015.


Bennington freshman Ashlyn Harbaugh was fifth in 20:43.6 and senior Kya Johnson - the class 2A state champion in 2015 - was 17th on Saturday at 21:31.1, but the Bulldogs couldn't bring enough firepower to put up their third consecutive title.