Ashley Spencer is one of two Illini to earn a trip to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
May 25, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas - Freshman Ashley Spencer (400m) and sophomore Jesica Ejesieme (400m hurdles) each advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines. Spencer earned her first trip to the national meet with a time of 52.16 in the 400m while Ejesieme crossed the finish line with a time of 57.74 in the 400m hurdles.
"Today didn't go as well as we would have liked," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "We had so many close calls that just didn't work out. Stephanie (Richartz) and Madeline (Aufmann) finishing 13th and Latoya (Grffith) placing 14th were just right there. Ashley (Spencer) and Jesica (Ejesieme) ran well and qualified so there was definitely a bright spot. We have to regroup and get ready for the 4x400m relay and Breeana (Coleman) in the 100 hurdle finals tomorrow."
Spencer placed second in the third heat, giving her an automatic qualifying spot into the national meet in Des Moines. Kansas' Diamon Dixon, Arkansas' Regina George and Oregon's Phyllis Francis grabbed the top three spots.
"Ashley (Spencer) ran very smart and didn't push the race against Diamond Dixon," Buford-Bailey said. "She just needed to qualify and get herself ready for the 4x400m relay tomorrow. To be so young, I am always impressed at how calm she is when competing and how she always sticks to the plan."
Ejesieme placed fourth in her semifinal heat of the 400m hurdles and took the 10th quickest time in the event to earn her first trip to the NCAA Championships in a few weeks.
"Jesica (Ejesieme) false started in the 100m hurdles and was extremely disappointed but the way she bounced back and ran the 400m hurdles was gutsy," Buford-Bailey said. "I'm so proud of her. Her progress in that event has really been something special to watch."
Sophomore Breeana Coleman, who turned in the fastest finish among the Illini competitors on Friday in the 100m hurdles, finished fourth in her heat with a time of 13.58. The Olathe, Kan., native will be the lone Orange and Blue athlete in the quarterfinals, as teammate Ejesieme false started and was disqualified.
Both Madeline Aufmann and Stephanie Richartz came up a spot short of a trip to the NCAA Championships, placing 13th overall in the 3,000m steeplechase and pole vault, respectively. Aufmann, fresh off setting a new personal-best at the Big Ten Championship meet, finished her season with a time of 10:25.53 and placing sixth in the last heat. Richartz, the Big Ten pole vault champion ended her season with a mark of 13-4 ¼ (4.07m).
Senior Latoya Griffith also ended her season in the 400m hurdles, as she timed the 14th fastest time in the event. The Big Ten Champion finished fourth in her heat with a time of 58.17.
A full list of Illini results along with the remaining schedule of Orange and Blue competition can be found below. The Illini will begin the final day of action at the NCAA West Preliminary Round on Saturday at 6:45 p.m. with the 1,500m quarterfinal, followed by the 100m hurdle quarterfinals and the 4x400m relay. Live results along with a full recap can be found on fightingillini.com.
Illinois Friday Results at NCAA West Preliminary Round
Q/q = qualified for quarterfinal
* advanced to NCAA Championships in Des Moines
13. Stephanie Richartz 13-4 ¼ (4.07m)
Illinois Remaining Schedule at the NCAA West Preliminary Round
(All times Central)