Illini Take Second at the Big Ten Championships
May 13, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Four Big Ten titles highlighted the final day of competition at the outdoor conference meet for the Illinois women's track and field team, as the squad finishes second overall with 120 points. Sophomore Ashley Spencer defended the 200m and 400m crown, junior Samantha Murphy was the 800m champion and the 4x400m relay defended their title on Sunday.
"We had a solid meet overall," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "Everything didn't go perfectly for us and we could have done better in some areas but we had some really great things happen that turned out to be big surprises for us. The pole vaulters, 800 runners and 5K runners had an outstanding meet and scored a lot of unexpected points. We had some real fighters who know how to perform when it counts. That's a really good sign for the next season. As usual, Ashley Spencer was outstanding and continues to prove that she is on another level."
Spencer defended her 200m conference crown in a time of 23.20 which her second best time of the season. The sophomore then won the 400m title in a time of 52.27 which was a season best and is the eighth best in the country. Freshman Morolake Akinosun also contributed 17 points for the Illini, as she finished second in the 100m in a time of 11.36 and eighth in the 200m with a time of 24.49.
"It was good to get a 400m time for Ashley and for her to win another Big Ten title in the event," Buford-Bailey said. "She didn't open up until this meet last year but because she is the defending national champion, it was a different feeling waiting this long to get a mark. I like to stick to the plan which always keeps Ashley focused on what she needs to do and it really works for her. Morolake also ran very well. Her hamstring tightened on her in the 100m but it was still her second fastest time of her career. The hamstring hampered her performance in the 200m also but overall I could not have asked for more from a freshman."
In the 800m, the Orange and Blue totaled 20 team points as Murphy crossed the finish line and won her first conference title in the event in a time of 2:06.32. Junior Ahlivia Spencer finished third with a time of 2:09.38 and junior Amanda Duvendack placed fifth with a time of 2:09.95.
"Samantha, Ahlivia and Amanda really stepped up for the team in the 800m. I'm so happy for all three of them because they have worked so hard and I respect how much they trust in our training plan. It's an untraditional way of doing things and they believe in it and never waiver so its always great when athletes achieve success in that way."
The Illini also did well in the distance events on Sunday as junior Katie Porada notched three team points as she finished third in the 1,500m with a time of 4:24.47. Porada came back to score in the 5,000m as she crossed the line sixth in a time of 16:17.53 while sophomore Alyssa Schneider finished closely behind in a time of 16:21.31 to place seventh.
"I was pleasantly surprised by Katie and Alyssa," Buford-Bailey said. "They showed me that they are true competitors. Katie was a little disappointed by her 1,500 finish but she ran like I have never seen her run before in her first ever 5K. Alyssa, had a good cross country season but today was officially her breakout race. They both are going to do some really special stuff for us next season. I'm really proud of them both."
Both Illini hurdlers scored points in the 100m hurdles race as junior Breeana Coleman placed fifth with a time of 13.57 while Ejesieme took eighth in a time of 13.71. Ejesieme also notched six team points when she finished third in the 400m hurdles with a time of 59.18.
Ashley Spencer was also part of the winning 4x400m relay team of senior Marissa Golliday, Ahlivia Spencer and Murphy which took the Big Ten title in 3:36.18. The Illini placed runner-up in the 4x100m relay as the quartet of Ejesieme sophomore Asia Thomas, Akinosun and Spencer finished the race with a time of 45.58, just behind Ohio State.
"It's always great to win a relay title at the Big Ten meet," Buford-Bailey said. "We fell short in the 4x100, so this win came at the right time for them. Of course, it all came down to the anchor and Ashley was phenomenal by passing two people to bring us the win. She is so fun to watch."
In the discus, freshman Jazjuan Wallace-Sipp hit personal bests in each attempt, finishing 12th with a mark of 153-0 (46.64m). The mark etches her name into the schools top-10 list, at number eight.
The Illinois women's track and field team will head to Austin, Texas in two weeks for the NCAA West Preliminary Round of Championships from May 23-25 at the University of Texas. The Illini athletes who qualify for the opening round of competition will be announced later this week.
Illinois Sunday Results at Big Ten Outdoor Championships
Final Team Results