Spencer Wins First Ever 400m NCAA Title in School History
June 8, 2012
DES MOINES, Iowa - On her 19th birthday, freshman Ashley Spencer won the 400m title at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships on Friday evening at Drake Stadium, becoming the first Illinois women's track and field national champion in school history in the event. The individual national championship is the first for the Orange and Blue since 2009 when Angela Bizzarri won the 5,000m title.
"It feels great," Spencer said. "I worked hard. I never expected I'd come out and win a national title. The last 100 meters I knew I'd have to kick. I knew the other girls had really good finishes. I knew I had to push myself the last 100 meters and it paid off. This is the best birthday ever."
Spencer ran out of lane six and timed 50.95 to take the crown, which is a personal-best, a new school record and is the fastest collegiate time this year. The race was fast from the start as the freshman topped Rebecca Alexander (LSU) and Diamond Dixon (Kansas) to take the crown.
"Ashley (Spencer) was amazing today," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "She executed the race perfectly. I felt like she was going a little too hard in her last two 400's so we talked about taking the edge off the backstretch. She followed the plan and it became a foot race of speed when it came down to the last 150 meters. Today is her birthday and to win a national title on your birthday is really special. Andrew (Riley) and Ashley trained hard in the fall and so they were used to the win. They both made me very proud today."
Spencer is now a two-time All-American, winning the 200m title indoors this fall. She is also the first freshman to win the 400m NCAA title since Sanya Richards (Texas) accomplished the feat in 2003. In just her first year as an Illini, the Indianapolis, Ind., native is a NCAA champion (400m), indoor All-American (200m), a six-time Big Ten champion and has broken five school records.
With one day remaining at the NCAA Championships, the Illini wrap up their competition tied for 17th with 10 points. The Orange and Blue had one national champion in Spencer and a second-team All-American in Jesica Ejesieme (400m hurdles).
400m Final Results at NCAA Championships
1. Ashley Spencer, Illinois - 50.95 *