Ashley Spencer qualified for the finals of the 400m after capturing the second fastest overall semifinal time.
June 6, 2012
DES MOINES, Iowa - At Drake Stadium on Wednesday, freshman Ashley Spencer raced to her second-fastest time this season of 51.33 in the 400m semifinal at the NCAA Championships and advanced to the event final. Also, teammate Jesica Ejesieme earned second-team All-America honors in the 400m hurdles to wrap up the Illini's action on day one at the national meet.
"Ashley (Spencer) ran a great semi-final today," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "She did what she needed to do to win her heat in order to get a preferred lane. She was calm and relaxed the whole day which is so amazing for someone her age at a meet of his caliber. She runs the final on her birthday on Friday so that's going to be exciting."
In just her second 400m race of the season, Spencer ran her second-fastest mark this season (51.33), won the third and final heat and holds the second-quickest time overall going into the finals. The freshman won her heat and will now run in the event final on Friday night at 7:02 p.m. Spencer will look to become the first Illini national champion in the 400m.
In the 400m hurdles, Ejesieme posted her second-fastest time of the season (57.61) and placed 10th overall, which will earn Ejesieme second-team All-America honors under the USTFCCCA system. The sophomore placed fourth in the second heat, which featured three of the top-10 times on the day.
"Jesica (Ejesieme) ran gutsy today and almost made the final," Buford-Bailey said. "She is really just learning the event so she is going to be so much better next year. This was a great learning experience for her."
The Illini will run in three event semifinals at the NCAA Championships on Thursday. Sophomore Breeana Coleman will begin the action in the 100m hurdles at 7:10 p.m. followed by the 4x400m relay squad of senior Ashley Kelly, senior Ryisha Boyd, senior Latoya Griffith and Spencer at 8:25 p.m. Full results and a recap can be found on fightingillini.com.
Illinois Wednesday Results at NCAA Championships
Q/q = qualified for NCAA final round
2. Ashley Spencer 51.33 Q
400m Hurdles (Semifinal)
10. Jesica Ejesieme 57.61