Women's Cross Country, Track & Field

Tonja Buford-Bailey
Tonja Buford-Bailey

Head Coach

Fifth Season

Alma Mater:
Illinois '93


Six Illini Finish in Top-Five at LSU

Two Illini set personal bests on Saturday


#18 Illinois Athletes Head to Three Meets This Weekend

Illini to compete at LSU; Jesse Owens and Mt. SAC


Ashley Spencer Wins Two Events at ASU

Four Illini crack school's top-10 in events


#16 Illini Face Loaded Field at Sun Angel Track Classic

Illini will bring full squad to meet in Tempe, Ariz.


Akinosun Tabbed Conference Track Athlete of the Week

Freshman earns Illini's second straight conference honor


Illini Classic 1/19/13

Photos from the Illini Classic at the UI Armory


Illini Open

Photos from the Illini Open on Jan. 12, 2013

Contact Coach Buford-Bailey at baileyt@illinois.edu

During the 2013 track season, the Illini were ranked as high as eighth during the indoor season after winning their first conference title since 1996. Buford-Bailey also guided her team to 14th place finishes at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships and a runner-up effort at the Big Ten Outdoor meet, with the squad amassing 13 All-America honors and 11 individual and relay conference titles. She guided two-time NCAA 400m champion, two-time Bowerman Award semifinalist and 2013 IAAF World Championships qualifier Ashley Spencer to an amazing sophomore year. This season also saw Buford-Bailey guide freshman Morolake Akinosun to a pair of All-America honors, a U.S. junior title in the 100m and a pair of Pan American Junior Championships qualifications in the 100m and 200m.

In 2012, the Illinois women collected seven total All-America distinctions and 21 All-Big Ten selections, including freshman standout Ashley Spencer's NCAA outdoor title in the 400m, seven Big Ten titles, while also breaking nine school records. Bailey led the Illini to a second-place finish at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships and a fourth-place effort at the Big Ten Indoor Championships. Spencer won six Big Ten titles (three indoor/three outdoor), while senior Latoya Griffith took the 400m hurdles crown an the 4x400m relay team (Ryisha Boyd, Ashley Kelly, Latoya Griffith, Spencer) won for the first time since 2005. Spencer was named Illinois' Female Newcomer of the Year and was also a semifinalist for the Bowerman Award, given to the nations top male/female track and field athletes. She also coached Spencer to two IAAF World Junior titles in the 400m and the 4x400m relay. Buford-Bailey also assisted with coaching Andrew Riley to two NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 100m and 110m hurdles, becoming the first male athlete in the NCAA to win those two events in the same year.

During the 2011 track season, the Illini women collected nine total All-America distinctions and eight All-Big Ten selections, including an individual Big Ten indoor title in the 400m (Ashley Kelly), while also breaking four school records (indoor 400m, 10,000m and indoor and outdoor pole vault) and a Drake Relays record (Stephanie Morgan - 1,500m). In her third season at the helm, Buford-Bailey led the Orange and Blue to a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Tamika Robinson (60m hurdles) and Kelly (outdoor 400m) each earned first-team All-America honors after placing in the top eight at their respective national meets.

Buford-Bailey also assisted with the men's program for the second year, coaching the sprints and hurdles in 2011. Andrew Riley won his second career national title, as he raced to victory in the indoor 60m hurdles with a personal-best time of 7.58. Riley completed an undefeated season in the event with the win, which included a third-straight Big Ten title. Her athletes also scored 18 points at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, helping Illinois tie for 12th, which marked the highest finish by an Illini men's squad in 23 years. The 4x100m relay, which competed in the NCAA final for the first time since 1964, earned first-team All-America honors with a third-place finish following a time of 38.96. During the semifinal, the relay timed 38.72 to break a 19-year-old Big Ten record and eclipse their own school record from earlier in the year. Azie (100m) and Wisslead (400m hurdles) also garnered their first career first-team All-America honors after competing in the finals of their respective events. In total, the Orange and Blue notched eight All-America distinctions, including seven first-team nods, which was the most since notching eight in 1988. At the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, Riley repeated as the 110m hurdles champion, Wisslead won his first career title in the 400m hurdles and the 4x100m relay captured the crown for the first time since 1997.

During the 2010 season, she coached hurdler Andrew Riley to the NCAA title in the 110m hurdles along with guiding Tamika Robinson to All-America honors in the 100m hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Illinois also received a national title in the indoor 3,000m and four total Big Ten titles from Angela Bizzarri and All-America honors in the shot put at both national meets from Aja Evans with Buford-Bailey at the helm.

In her first season as head coach in 2009, Buford-Bailey was honored as the USTFCCCA Head Coach of the Year for the Midwest Region, after directing the Fighting Illini to a 12th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, the program's best team finish since tying for 10th in 2002, and a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships, the best in school history.

In 2009, Illinois had a national champion in Angela Bizzarri (5,000m), two All-Americans in Deserea Brown (400m hurdles) and Aja Evans (shot put), and a total of eight athletes qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. She also helped Illinois athletes win a total of four titles at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, coaching Brown to the 400m hurdles title, Melissa Bates to the 400m title and the 4x400m relay to a runner-up finish. Bates, who was one of four Illini in the 400m final at the Outdoor Big Ten Championships, saw drastic improvement in her first season as a 400m runner, improving her time by nearly four seconds to 53.39 and qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the first time.

In addition, virtually every sprinter and hurdler on the Illinois roster achieved a personal-best time in the 2009 season under the direction of Buford-Bailey. Tamika Robinson bested her personal record in the 60m, the 60m hurdles and 100m hurdles, while scoring at the Outdoor Big Ten Championships in the 60m, 60m hurdles and 4X100m relay and becoming a Regional qualifier in the 100m hurdles. Paris Streeter improved her 400m time by over two seconds to 54.65 and scored at the Outdoor Big Ten Championships. As a freshman, Latoya Griffith bettered her 400m hurdles time from 59.90 to 57.87 and placed third at the Outdoor Big Ten Championships, second at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships and qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The 4x400m relay team of Omoye Ugiagbe, Ryisha Boyd, Brown and Bates broke the indoor school record at the Alex Wilson Invitational with a time of 3:35.13.

Buford-Bailey was promoted to succeed her former coach, the legendary Gary Winckler, who retired following the 2008 season. Winckler spent 23 seasons as head women's track and field coach, winning a total of 11 Big Ten team titles and coaching Illini athletes to a total of 321 All-America accolades. Buford-Bailey began to take over head coaching responsibilities during the 2008 season, when she served as associate head coach. She joined the Illinois staff as an assistant in 2004 and is certified as a USATF Level II coach in the sprints and hurdles.

Buford-Bailey coached Illini athletes to a successful 2008 season, starting with Tiara Armstrong winning the 60m title at the Big Ten Indoor Championships with a personal-best time of 7.41 seconds. Briana Cunningham also won a conference title in 2008, following Buford-Bailey's footsteps by winning the 400m hurdles crown at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships on her home track at the UI Track Stadium. Cunningham improved drastically under the direction of Buford-Bailey, lowering her 400m hurdles PR from 59.15 to 57.90 and competing at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Buford-Bailey helped standout hurdler LaNeisha Waller finish her Illinois career on a high note, as Waller competed in the 100m hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials and ran a personal-best time of 13.11 seconds in the quarterfinal.

In 2007, Buford-Bailey's sprinters and hurdlers delivered solid performances at the Big Ten Indoor Championships hosted by Illinois at the Armory track. Armstrong ran a then-personal best in the 60m and 200m, finishing third in the 60m behind Illini standout Yvonne Mensah. Waller finished second in the 60m hurdles, running a personal-best 8.15 seconds and automatically qualifying for the NCAA Championships.

Buford-Bailey's pupils kept things rolling in the 2007 outdoor season, with 100m hurdlers Waller and 2012 Olympian Holder both running season bests at the Kansas Relays. The Illini captured another conference title at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, with Armstrong and Waller scoring in the 100 meters and as members of the Big Ten champion 4x100m relay. Waller and Holder finished second and fourth in the 100m hurdles at Big Ten's, while Cunningham and Alondra Cooper rounded out the Illini quartet of finalists in the 400m hurdles. Waller went on to earn her first trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships by finishing fourth at the NCAA Mideast Regionals in the 100m hurdles. The Illini also qualified for nationals in the 4x100m relay. That summer she coached Pan American Junior sprints in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

In her first season as a coach in 2004, Buford-Bailey made an immediate impact as the Illini boasted their first 400m hurdles Big Ten champion in seven years, took home the 4x400m Big Ten title for the first time since 1996 and finished third at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.

During the 2005 season, Buford-Bailey's runners continued to have success on the track with the Illinois women finishing second at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in Ann Arbor, Mich. That same year Illinois won its second-straight 4x400m conference title on the way to winning the 2005 Big Ten Outdoor Championships. The next season, Waller became the 2006 Big Ten champion in the 60m hurdles.

During her career at Illinois, Buford-Bailey was a 10-time All-America selection and won a Big Ten-record 25 individual and team titles. She finished as a four-time Big Ten Athlete of the Year award winner and was named Athlete of the Championships three times. Buford-Bailey also received the prestigious University of Illinois Dike Eddleman Female Athlete of the Year award in 1992 and 1993. In 1992, she won the NCAA 400-meter hurdles outdoor title, and received a selection to the UI All-Decade team. Buford-Bailey became the first Illini female athlete to make the U.S. Olympic team.

Buford-Bailey was a three-time Olympian, earning a bronze medal in the 400m hurdles at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta to become the first female Illini athlete to win an Olympic medal. She also made the Olympic teams in 1992 and 2000. In addition, Buford-Bailey was the first woman in history to break the 53-second mark in the 400m hurdles, doing so on two occasions. She closed out the 1995 season ranked second in the world and her mark of 52.62 seconds in the 400m hurdles still remains fourth on the all-time world list.

Buford-Bailey is married to former NFL wide receiver Victor Bailey. The two wed in October 1995 and have one son, Victor Jr., and a daughter, Victoria.


B.S., University of Illinois (1993)

University of Illinois - Head Coach, 2008 -
University of Illinois - Associate Head Coach, 2008
University of Illinois - Assistant Coach, 2004-2007
Pan American Junior Athletics Championships - Assistant Coach for U.S. Team, 2007
IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Berlin, Germany- Women's Sprints/Hurdles, 2009
London Olympics, 2012

Division I Head Coach of the Year for the Midwest Region, 2009

University of Illinois - 1990-93
NCAA Champion: 400m Hurdles, 1992
All-America Accolades: 10
Big Ten Titles: 25
Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year: 1992, 1993
Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Athlete of the Championships: 1992, 1993
Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Freshman of the Year: 1990
Big Ten Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year: 1992, 1993
Big Ten Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Championships: 1992, 1993
University of Illinois Dike Eddleman Female Athlete of the Year: 1992, 1993
UI All-Decade Team
Fighting Illini Spirit Award Winner: 1991

U.S. National Team
U.S. Olympic Team: 1992, 1996, 2000
Olympic Bronze Medalist: 400m Hurdles, 1996
World Championships Silver Medalist: 400m Hurdles, 1995
U.S. Outdoor Championships Silver Medalist: 400m H, 2001
U.S. Olympic Trials Silver Medalist: 400m hurdles, 1992, 1996
U.S. Olympic Trials Bronze Medalist: 400m hurdles, 2000
Personal-best 400m Hurdles Performance: 52.62 seconds

Updated August 2012