Six Illini Headed to NCAA Championships
May 25, 2013
AUSTIN, Texas -- Six Illini track and field athletes advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene on Friday night. After a rain delay of more than six hours, sophomore Ashley Spencer (400m), freshman Morolake Akinosun (100m), Samantha Murphy (800m) and Amanda Duvendack (800m), senior Marissa Golliday (high jump) and junior Stephanie Richartz (pole vault) earned a trip to the national meet in their respective events.
"Today was a great day for the Ilini women," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "They performed so well and I am so proud of all of them. This is exactly what we have been working all year to do and to see so many of them qualify for NCAA finals and get personal best marks is so gratifying. They didn't let the long delays get to them and stayed focused after hours and hours of waiting to compete. We really have a group of winners and I'm so pleased with how the season is shaping up for us."
Spencer, the defending 400m champion, won her heat and notched the fastest quarterfinal time of 50.88. The time ranks eighth in the world and is a season-best for the sophomore which currently leads all 400m NCAA competitors. Also running the fastest time of the day in her event was Murphy in the 800m. The junior won heat one after leading the last 400m and finishing with a lifetime best time of 2:03.88. Murphy improved her 800m time by nearly two seconds.
"Ashley ran so smooth and relaxed," Buford-Bailey said. "This is probably the best I've ever seen her and that says a lot with all that she has accomplished. We have really focused on her speed this season and you can see how much it has paid off."
Duvendack will compete in the NCAA Championships for the first time in her career, after she finished seventh overall with a personal best 800m time of 2:05.07 which is third fastest in school history. Junior Ahlivia Spencer also competed in the 800m, finishing with a lifetime best of 2:06.22, ranking sixth all-time in the UI record books.
"The 800m was a real treat to watch," Buford-Bailey said. "Those three ladies have worked very hard in training this year. I'm not surprised that all three of them ran personal bests because their training has certainly indicated that they were ready to pop some good times. I'm glad it finally came for them. Samantha ran smooth and easy today while pulling Amanda along with her. Amanda had a bout with mono in the fall and struggled throughout the indoor season but she never gave up and that's why it's even more special for her. Ahlivia ran great as well with a personal best. I can't wait to see her run on the 4x400m. I think she is going to surprise herself."
Akinosun will travel to Eugene in two weeks as she qualified in the 100m. The freshman won heat one with a time of 11.59 which was the second fastest of the day. She also automatically qualified for the 200m quarterfinals on Saturday, after running a time of 23.56 in the prelims to notch the seventh fastest time of the day.
"Morolake was a shining star today," Buford-Bailey said. "She won her 100m heat pretty easily. What i'm most proud of is how well she takes direction. She didn't have the best race at the Big Ten meet and she came here and put together everything we worked on in the last week and a half. To have a freshman win a quarterfinal in this region is pretty special."
After earning All-America honors indoors, Golliday will look to do the same outdoors as she advanced to Eugene in the high jump. Golliday finished ninth with a mark of 5-8 3/4 (1.75m). Richartz will compete at the NCAA Championships in the pole vault for the first time in her career. The three-time Big Ten champion found herself in a jump-off for the last qualifying spot for nationals and proved she wanted to be there. Richartz took the 12th spot with a mark of 13-1 3/4 (4.11m).
"I think the most pleasant surprise for us all was Marissa qualifying in the high jump," Buford-Bailey said. "I don't think Coach Erb was surprised at all because he was saying all year how well her jumping has been going. He does a phenomenal job with all the jumpers and multi athletes. It's great to see that hard work paying off. He has really transformed her into one of the most versatile athletes in the country. Stephanie struggled a little bit again at this meet and found herself in a jump-off. Bryan Carrell kept telling us that she would come through and he was right. Stephanie is such a competitor though, she was never going to let what happened last year happen to her again."
Junior Jesica Ejesieme qualified automatically for the quarterfinals of the 100m hurdles as she finished third in her heat with a time of 13.82. The 100m hurdles quarters will take place Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Junior Breeana Coleman also competed in the event, finishing with a time of 13.98.
"Jesica ran one of her best races of the season in the 100m hurdles," Buford-Bailey said. "After false starting last year, she came and gave herself another shot at qualifying for nationals tomorrow."
A full list of Illini results along with the remaining schedule of Orange and Blue competition can be found below. Junior Katie Porada will look to advance to the NCAA Championships for the first time in her career in the 1,500m while Akinosun (200m) and Ejesieme (100m H) compete their respective quarterfinals. The 5,000m semifinal and 4x400m relay also highlight action on the final day of competition.
Illinois Friday Results at NCAA West Preliminary Round
Illinois Remaining Schedule at the NCAA West Preliminary Round
Saturday, May 25