Iowa State track and field opened the week in California on Wednesday with four athletes in action at the Bryan Clay Invitational in Azusa, California.
It was a nearly all-day affair for the Cyclones, who had three of their entries making their debuts in the heptathlon and decathlon.
Overall, the Cyclones' opening day was highlighted by a handful of personal records across all three events contested. This also included another top-10 mark in program history with Gable Sieperda's steeplechase performance in the nightcap.
Sieperda runs down steeplechase PR
Entering Wednesday, junior distance runner Gable Sieperda had not competed in the 3000m steeplechase in nearly a year, having last run the event at the 2021 NCAA West Preliminary meet in College Station, Texas.
At that meet, Sieperda finished fourteenth overall with a collegiate-best time of 8:46.57.
Sieperda's season debut in the event on Wednesday set a new personal high, as he broke his PR by finishing runner-up in the event and clocking a time of 8:43.45.
Running in the first heat of the day, Sieperda stayed close to Montana's Joel Mendez, who led for the majority of the race. Mendez, who was competing in his first race for the Grizzlies, kept the pace quick and crossed the line in a time of 8:42.22.
The pace also helped Sieperda, as he broke his old personal-best by more than three seconds to record one of the best performances in program history.
His time is now the eighth-fastest on the Iowa State leaderboard, as he passed former All-American Joseph Kipsang's time of 8:45.50 from 1984.
He now joins a list that includes teammate Wesley Kiptoo, who owns the school record of 8:31.82, as well as Olympian Hillary Bor (8:36.84 in 2008). As of this writing, Sieperda's time is now also the 12th fastest among all Division I athletes, as he and Mendez are the newest additions to the NCAA's top times list.
Sieperda will return to the track on Friday evening when he will run in the 1500m.
Willits PRs in heptathlon debut
Freshman Sydney Willits completed day one of her first outdoor heptathlon, representing the Cyclones as their sole entry in the event.
Willits' competition in Group B included a field of 26 athletes, three of whom are from Oregon and placed in the top-ten after Wednesday. Ducks freshman Colleen Uzoekwe stands atop the rest after the first four events, having scored 3,368 points so far.
Willits got her competition off to a slow start on Wednesday morning, as she finished last in the 100m hurdles with a time of 18.95 seconds.
Entering the high jump, she had amassed just 395 points, yet bounced back by recording a best mark of 1.55 meters. That mark was tied for 16th best among the field, as Willits now had 1,073 points after the first two events.
Willits only continued her upward trajectory in the final two events of the day, as she wrapped up the first half of competition with a pair of personal bests.
Starting in the shot put, Willits improved on each of her three attempts, as she threw for marks of 9.46 and 10.33 meters before breaking her PR on the final throw with a 10.83-meter performance.
Willits broke both her stand-alone and heptathlon shot put records in the process, as her previous bests in both of those events were 9.64 and 9.56 meters respectively.
Willits followed up that performance by taking down another of her personal bests in the 200m. She clocked a time of 25.50 seconds to finished second in her heat, as well as eighth overall. Entering Thursday, Willits has 2,498 points and is on track to break her pentathlon PR with three events remaining.
Thompson, Vetsch open decathlon seasons
Like Willits in the heptathlon, juniors Thai Thompson and Jack Vetsch made their season debuts in the decathlon.
The 10-event competition spans the course of two days, as Thompson and Vetsch completed the first five events over the course of Wednesday. Entered in Group B, the pair matched up against nine other decathletes, many of whom were competing on behalf of West Coast programs.
Both Thompson and Vetsch transferred to Iowa State from Northern Iowa and South Dakota respectively, where they each earned medals in the decathlon at their conference championships.
Thompson finished third at the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference meet with a career-best performance of 6,369 points. Vetsch earned the silver medal at last year's Summit League Championships, finishing with a total of 7,162 points.
Vetsch got off to a strong start on Wednesday with a PR in the 100m dash. Clocking in a time of 11.44 seconds, Vetsch collected 765 points in the opening event, as he just trailed Thompson, who ran a time of 11.22 seconds and recorded 812 points.
In the long jump, Vetsch bounced back with top mark of 6.45 meters, while Thompson was not able to amass any points after fouling on all three of his attempts. Thus, after two events, it was now Vetsch who had the lead among the two with 1,451 points.
Vetsch again bested Thompson in the shot put, as he threw for 12.01 meters, which was just 0.14 meters off of his performance from the 2021 Summit League meet.
Thompson threw for 10.50 meters on his first attempt. This left the scores with 2,058 points for Vetsch and 1,328 for Thompson after three events.
Thompson was able to finish strong in the final two events of the day, as he now bested Vetsch in both the high jump and 400m dash. Thompson's best mark in the high jump was 1.82 meters to Vetsch's 1.76 meters, and he closed out the competition with a 49.89-second performance in the 400. Vetsch finished the opening day of competition by clocking 51.65 seconds in the 400.
With the first five events completed, Vetsch sits in ninth place with 3,391 points while Thompson is back in 11th with a points-haul of 2,792. The pair will open the second day of the competition on Thursday with the 110m hurdles, then compete in the discus, pole vault and javelin before wrapping up the competition by running in the 1500m.
Iowa State will be back in action on Thursday, with competition set to begin at the Mt. SAC Relays in nearby Walnut, Calif. Live results of Thursday's results can be accessed through the Iowa State athletics website here.