CLASS 2A STATE PREVIEW: Splechter, Yates Center Have Shot at School History

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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 year.


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 last year.


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 best.


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 winning team.


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 weekend.


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 injury.




Boys Teams Competing - Bennington, Ell-Saline, Kansas City Christian, Meade, Oakley, Skyline (Pratt), Stanton County, Trego Community, Wabaunsee, West Elk, Wichita County, Yates Center.


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.


Prediction: Team champions Bennington boys and Bennington girls; individual champions Hadley Splechter of Yates Center and Halle Johnson of Bennington.