Senior Tamika Robinson advanced to the NCAA Championships in the 100m hurdles for the second year in a row.
May 28, 2011
EUGENE, Ore. - On the final day of the NCAA West Preliminary round, the Illinois women's track and field team added three more NCAA qualifiers, bringing their total to five entries for the NCAA Championships. The 4x100m relay opened the day by advancing followed by sophomore Stephanie Morgan in the 1,500m and senior Tamika Robinson in the 100m hurdles. Senior Chantelle Groenewoud (3,000m steeplechase) and junior Ashley Kelly (400m) both advanced to the national meet on Friday.
In the first race of the afternoon at Hayward Field, the 4x100m relay of senior Cheria Morgan, junior Ashley Kelly and seniors Tamika Robinson and Melissa Bates notched an automatic bid to nationals by placing third in the opening heat with a time of 44.52. This foursome ran for the first time together this season and clocked the second-quickest mark by an Illini relay. Their time ranked seventh out of the 12 qualifiers to Des Moines.
"We have had a breakthrough year in the relay and run some really good times," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "After Kayla Smith got sick, we had to put Melissa Bates in her place. We ran really well for the first time having this squad out there. I am really excited for Cheria because this is her first time making it to nationals as a senior. We will practice some more with this team to get ready for nationals."
Morgan clinched a berth to the NCAA Championships for the first time in her career after finishing fourth in her heat with her second-fastest time (4:20.45) of the year. The Barnesville, Ohio, native tallied an automatic bid by placing in the top five of her heat and had the No. 8 overall time among the 12 qualifiers.
"Stephanie is still battling a bit of a hip injury, so for her to make nationals is great," Buford-Bailey said. "She had a pretty good race and will hopefully continue to get better as she gets ready for Des Moines."
In the 100m hurdles, Robinson earned a return trip to nationals by picking up an auto bid following a third-place finish and time of 13.40. The Chicago, Ill., native, who garnered All-America honors in the event last year, grabbed the 12th and final qualifying spot in the event.
"Tamika actually had a bad start after settling into the blocks a little bit," Buford-Bailey said. "She was late getting to the first hurdle but kept pushing forward to get that last qualifying start. She will continue to work on that and will have a better race at nationals."
The Orange and Blue missed advancing in the 4x400m relay by just two spots after finishing 14th overall. The team of junior Ryisha Boyd, Bates, Kelly and junior Latoya Griffith posted a time of 3:40.78 in the first heat of the day. The Illini also had a pair of sprinters wrap up individual competition in the 200m, as Bates (24.16) and Kelly (24.41) competed in the quarterfinal on Saturday.
The 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships will be held from June 8-11 in Des Moines, Iowa, at Drake Stadium. The Illini, who competed there earlier this season at the Drake Relays, will send six athletes in five events to the national meet.
Illinois Saturday Results at NCAA West Preliminary Round
* advanced to NCAA Championships in Des Moines
8. Stephanie Morgan 4:20.45*
100m Hurdles (Quarterfinal)
12. Tamika Robinson 13.40*