Three Big Takeaways: Steeplechasers, half-milers earn PRs


Photo Courtesy of Luke Lu/Iowa State Athletics Communications

Iowa State freshman Janette Schraft competes in the 1,500 meter run at the Drake Relays on April 22, 2021. 

Adarsh Tamma

On Thursday, Iowa State track and field had another busy day of action in the Golden State as Cyclone athletes competed at the Bryan Clay Invitational and Mt. SAC Relays in the Southern California area.

The Cyclones continued their strong form on the track as a handful of personal bests were recorded in the middle and long-distance events.

Iowa State’s day was also highlighted by a few debut performances, such as freshman Kelvin Bungei winning his first 3000m steeplechase heat in a personal-best time of 8 minutes, 51.71 seconds. The multi-eventers also wrapped up their schedules at the Bryan Clay Invite, with heptathletes and decathletes taking part in the final day of the competition.

This included a major PR for Thai Thompson, who improved his best discus mark by over 16 feet for a best mark of 110 feet, three inches. Thompson’s teammate, Jake Vetsch, successfully completed his first decathlon by taking seventh in Group B with 6,502 points.

Willits impresses in outdoor pentathlon debut

Freshman multi-eventer Sydney Willits capped off her first outdoor heptathlon on a high note, as she finished with 4,376 points. The performance is just outside Iowa State’s all-time leaderboard, as the current 10th-greatest heptathlon mark is Katie Tweto’s 4,464-point performance at the 1994 Big 8 Championships.

Willits finished the opening day of competition Wednesday having broken two personal records in the shot put and 200m dash to log 2,498 points across the first four events.

On day two, she continued that momentum, opening with a first-place showing in the long jump. On her second attempt, Willits recorded a jump of 6.05 meters, finishing more than 0.10 meters ahead of Fresno State’s Maddison Hutton. That jump gained her 865 points, a high mark for Willits for the rest of the competition.

Willits’ mark in the long jump is also now the seventh-best in Iowa State history, as she overtook Barbara Szlendakova for that spot. Coincidentally, Szlendakova also owns the school record in the outdoor heptathlon, having recorded 5,727 points at the 2001 Big 12 Championships.

Willits wasn’t able to capitalize on her strong long jump performance in her next event, however, as she amassed just 365 points from the javelin. Her best throw was 24.06 meters, off of her personal best (26.68m) by more than two meters, as she stayed towards the bottom of the field heading into the final event of the day.

In the 800m, Willits closed out her week with another near-PR, as she clocked a time of 2:33.67 to finish 21st overall and earn an additional 648 points. Willits’ top time in the half-mile race is 2:32.20, a mark that she ran at the Big 12 Indoor Championships in February. In that pentathlon, Willits finished 13th with a final points total of 3,531.

800m group record trio of PRs

The Cyclone men’s middle distance group produced another series of strong results at the Bryan Clay Invitational, as three of their six entries recorded personal records in the event.

Sophomore Cebastian Gentil got the ball rolling for Iowa State by winning the second heat of the day. Following teammate and fellow All-American Jason Gomez’s win from last week’s Sun Angel Classic, Gentil clocked the first personal record for the Cyclones by running a time of 1:46.97.

Gentil also beat out two Iowa athletes, Armando Bryson and Antonio Brego, who have run some of the top times in the Hawkeyes’ history. Bryson recently helped them win the 4x400m relay at the Big Ten Championships and record the sixth-fastest time in Iowa history. Brego has had a successful freshman season so far, as he clocked the second-fastest 800m by a Hawkeye with 1:48.47 at the Meyo Invitational.

Gentil’s time moves him up to No. 6 on Iowa State’s all-time leaderboard, as he passed Gomez’s mark of 1:47.12 to become the first Iowa State athlete to run under 1:47 since Roshon Roomes in 2019 (1:46.88). Gentil’s time is also now the fifth-fastest in Division I this season.

Peter Smith followed Gentil’s performance by breaking his own personal record in heat four. Smith placed fourth with a time of 1:49.02, bettering his mark from a week ago when he ran 1:49.35 at the Sun Angel Classic. Smith was followed by David Thompson, who earned seventh place with a time of 1:51.67.

Joe Schaefer recorded the hat-trick of personal bests for Iowa State in the very next race when he garnered a runner-up finish in heat five. Schaefer’s finishing time of 1:51.52 was 0.45 seconds better than his performance at last year’s Hayward Premiere. Schaefer was beaten out on a first-place by South Dakota State’s Riley Bauer, who finished third at last year’s Drake Relays.

Adding Tanner Anderson’s 1:51.93 mark in heat 10, five out of Iowa State’s runners ran times below the 1:52 mark. The Cyclones men’s team’s streak in that specific stat now extends to 10 total times, as seven different athletes have now run below 1:52 in the 800m over the past couple of weeks.

Hill, Schraft clock steeplechase PRs

At the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., the Iowa State women earned two more personal bests in the outdoor season, as Madelynn Hill and Janette Schraft both broke their top times in the 3000m steeplechase.

Hill and Schraft both ran in the 1500m at the Sun Angel Classic, where Hill earned a personal best time of 4:27.70. She continued her strong freshman campaign in the steeplechase, as she cut over seven seconds off of her top time with a finishing mark of 10:34.90.

Running in the “Elite” heat, Hill stayed consistent throughout her race, recording lap times hovering around the 1:24 mark as she stayed towards the back of the pack. Hill finished 13th and recorded the sixth-fastest time in Iowa State history with her performance.

Schraft did one better in her race, the first heat of the day. The Glenwood, Iowa, native lowered her personal best in the steeplechase with a time of 10:18.02 to take sixth place. Schraft’s time is the fastest in the Big 12 so far this year, as she retained her position as the third-fastest in Cyclone history. Her time is also now among the nation’s best, as she ranks No. 29 among Division I athletes.

The Cyclones will be back in action Friday, with the Beach Invitational set to start at 6:30 a.m. with the women’s 10000m run. The Bryan Clay Invitational will also wrap up with the remainder of running events, while the Mt. SAC Relays will be in full swing with events ranging from the 400m hurdles to the 5000m.