Total Team Effort Highlights Husker Invite
Feb. 2, 2013
LINCOLN, Neb. -- The Fighting Illini women's track and field team concluded competition today at the Husker Invitational. The squad set multiple times which rank in the top-25 nationally and lead the Big Ten.
"Overall I'm really pleased with our performances this weekend," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "We were very well rounded and the team can always count on each other to perform well. It's great to see everyone improving at such an early time of season, including freshman Morolake Akinosun and junior Ahlivia Spencer. I was also pleased with our results at the Meyo invitational, especially with Courtney Yaeger and Stephanie Morgan."
At the Husker Invite, freshman Morolake Akinosun continued her indoor success, after setting a preliminary time of 7.39 in the 60m to advance to the finals of the event. The prelim time is seventh fastest in school history and is currently tied for 12th best in the country. Akinosun placed sixth in the finals of the event with a time of 7.49.
"Morolake performed really well," Buford-Bailey said. "She ran against tough competition on the road and competed well during both days. It's tough for a freshman and to perform under pressure, it shows she has a bright future."
Sophomore Ashley Spencer finished runner-up in the 200m with a time of 23.42, a time near what the All-American ran at the NCAA Indoor Championships last year. Akinosun also advanced to the finals of the event, finishing with a time of 24.06, a personal-best for the newcomer. The Illini also picked up a title in the 600m, when Ahlivia Spencer finished with a winning time of 1:31.69 which ranks seventh best in school history.
"Ashley is definitely running ahead of schedule in the 200m from where she was at this point last year," Buford-Bailey said. "She performed well in the race and also ran another great leg in the 4x400m. I was also very impressed with Ahlivia's 400m prelim time as well as her 600m race."
Junior Samantha Murphy continues to be a consistent performer for the Illini this year. Murphy picked up her second 800m title of the season, after she crossed the finish line with a time 2:07.55 which ranks as fifth fastest in Illinois indoor history.
"Samantha is just a real star," Buford-Bailey said. "She is constantly racing against the clock. When she finally gets competition, it'll be exciting to see what she can do."
Many Illini set personal and season bests in the field events, highlighted by senior Marissa Golliday in the high jump and junior Stephanie Richartz in the pole vault. Golliday significantly improved her high jump mark, finishing third with a mark of 5-9 1/4 (1.76m) which ranks tied for seventh highest in school history. Richartz, the school record holder, placed runner-up in the pole vault and set a season best of 13-8 1/2 (4.18m) which currently sits in the top-10 in the nation and tops the Big Ten.
"Marissa had a huge personal best in the high jump," Buford-Bailey said. "This will affect her combined events later down the road. Stephanie put herself in the top-10 in the country and top in the conference with her vault today. This is great for her to be jumping that well at this time of the year."
The Illini also sent a few individuals to the Meyo Invitational this weekend. In her first 5,000m race of the season, senior Courtney Yaeger improved her career best time of 16:42.95 to move her to sixth best in school history. Junior Stephanie Morgan competed in the 1,000m and finished with a time of 2:56.33.
"Courtney ran a personal best in the 5,000m and bettered her indoor and outdoor time," Buford-Bailey said. "It was pretty significant to run that time early in the season. She has been traveling a lot, so for her to be able to come out and do that has been great. This was Stephanie's first track meet in two seasons so it was a good confidence boost for her."
Next weekend, the Illini will head to Geneva, Ohio to compete at the Spire Division 1 Invitational on Friday, Feb. 8 and Saturday, Feb. 9. The Spire Invitational will be the site of the 2013 Big Ten Indoor Championships.