7th Place Big Ten Indoor Championships | T-50th Place NCAA Indoor Championships
4th Place Big Ten Outdoor Championships | T-66th Place NCAA Outdoor Championships
During the 2011 track season, Illinois athletes collected nine total All-America distinctions and eight All-Big Ten selections, including an individual Big Ten indoor title in the 400m, while also breaking four school records and a Drake Relays record. In her third season at the helm, head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey saw the Illini score points at both the indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships and led the Orange and Blue to a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships and a seventh-place effort at the Big Ten Indoor Championships.
The Illini began their indoor campaign at home in the middle of January with the Illini Open, where the squad captured nine individual event titles. They followed up that performance with a pair of home meet victories the next two weekends, which included 12 individual titles at the Illini Classic and nine individual crowns at the Illinois Intercollegiate.
At the Meyo Invitational, junior Ashley Kelly timed 53.59 in the 400m, breaking Yvonne Harrison's old school record mark of 53.80 from 1998. The Orange and Blue next competed at the Tyson Invitational, the squad's final competition before the conference championship.
Illinois scored 61 points and placed seventh at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in West Lafayette, Ind., just eight points shy of a top-four finish. Kelly won her first career Big Ten title in the 400m, Illinois' first indoor champion in the event since Harrison in 1998. Sophomore Stephanie Morgan also picked up second-team All-Big Ten honors by grabbing the runner-up spot in the 800m. Tamika Robinson (60m hurdles) and Samantha Murphy (800m) each turned in top-three finishes while freshman Stephanie Richartz broke the school record in the pole vault by clearing a height of 12-11 ½ (3.95m).
Robinson competed for Illinois at the NCAA Indoor Championships, placing seventh overall in the 60m hurdles and scoring two points. The Chicago, Ill., native garnered All-America accolades for the second time in her career and first time during the indoor season. She advanced to the event final with a personal-best time of 8.12 during prelims, which ranks third in school history behind Perdita Felicien (7.90) and Susanna Kallur (8.00).
Following a weekend off between seasons, the outdoor campaign started off strong, as senior Elizabeth Boyle broke the 10,000m school record at the Stanford Invitational and the Illini helped the conference win the inaugural Big Ten/SEC Challenge at the end of March. The 4x400m relay shined at the next meet, posting a season-best mark of 3:36.33 at the LSU Invitational.
At the Sea Ray Relays, Illinois took home the 4x200m relay title and crossed the line as the top collegiate team in the 4x800m relay. Richartz broke the outdoor pole vault record the following weekend at the Polytan Invitational, where the Illini also won event titles in the 1,500m and 100m hurdles.
Morgan highlighted the Drake Relays, as eclipsed a 20-year-old record in her 1,500m victory. She ran a personal-best mark of 4:15.90, which was the fastest time in the history of the event at the meet and the second-fastest time in school history. The Orange and Blue also competed at the Stan Lyons Invitational that weekend and picked up three event titles in the final regular season meet.
Illinois finished fourth at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships in Iowa City, scoring 90 points overall, while six Illini earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. Kelly placed second in a pair of events (200m, 400m) and as part of the 4x100m relay with senior Cheria Morgan, sophomore Kayla Smith and Robinson while seniors Kelly Washington (heptathlon) and Chantelle Groenewoud (3,000m steeplechase) each reached the podium with second-place showings in their respective events. Richartz also broke her own school record in the pole vault, clearing a height of 13-3 ¾ (4.06m) and placing third in the event.
After the conference meet, the Illini sent 16 athletes to the NCAA West Preliminary Round of Championship in Eugene, Ore. Six athletes in five events punched their tickets to the national meet during the three days of competition at Hayward Field. Groenewoud nabbed a third trip to nationals in the steeplechase, and the 4x100m relay of Morgan, Kelly, Robinson and senior Melissa Bates advanced for the second-straight season. Robinson snagged a return trip in the 100m hurdles while Morgan (1,500m) and Kelly (400m) qualified for the first time in individual events. Boyle also wrapped up her Illini career by resetting her own school record in the 10,000m with a time of 34:28.50.
At the NCAA Outdoor Championships, the Illini took home one first-team honor, five second-team nods and a pair of honorable mention All-American awards for their performances at nationals in Des Moines, Iowa. Kelly, who scored the Illini's one team point, earned her first career All-America awards, collecting first-team honors for placing eighth in the 400m and second-team laurels for as part of the 4x100m relay, which placed 13th overall in the NCAA semifinal. Robinson, who finished her career as a three-time All-American, tallied second-team honors as part of the relay and an honorable mention distinction in the 100m hurdles.
Bates and Cheria Morgan became All-Americans for the first time, picking up second-team honors on the 4x100m relay, while Groenewoud was tabbed a second-team All-American after finishing 12th in the 3,000m steeplechase, marking her first career accolade. Stephanie Morgan rounded out the awards with an honorable mention selection in the 1,500m.