Sophomore Ashley Spencer defended her 400m title, setting a new collegiate best time at the NCAA Championships.
June 7, 2013
EUGENE, Ore. -- Sophomore Ashley Spencer successfully defended her 400m title at the NCAA Championships on Friday evening, winning her second national championship with a new collegiate best time of 50.28. Three other Illini competed on Friday, each one earning All-America honors in their respective events including freshman Morolake Akinosun (100m), junior Samantha Murphy (800m) and junior Stephanie Richartz (pole vault). The Illini are tied for ninth in the team score with 18 points.
"The Illinois women's program is having an amazing meet so far," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "It's the most success we've had in a long time. What I love most about these girls is they step it up when it counts. To get two school records against the competition they're facing is just tremendous. Ashley had a lot of pressure coming in to defend her title. I always believed she would be great at this event and it showed today. She came back and stood her ground."
Spencer ran out of lane six and timed 50.28 to take the crown, which is a personal best, a school record and is the fourth-best collegiate time ever and fifth best in the world this year. The time also makes her the number four in-season performer in college history. Spencer is now a four-time All-American, finishing third indoors in the 400m. For her career, Spencer is a two-time NCAA champion (400m), two-time indoor All-American (200m/400m), and a 12-time Big Ten champion.
Murphy concluded her year in the 800m on Friday, earning All-America honors in the event. The junior ran out of lane one and was seventh after the first 400m. Coming across the finish line, Murphy finished fifth with a new school record time of 2:02.10. It's the first time the record books have been reset since Carlene Robinson achieved the feat (2:03.52) in 2004.
"I am so proud of Sam," Buford-Bailey said. "She has had the biggest improvement this season and ran a really gutsy race today. She ran really smart and has a real future in the event. It's even more special for me because she trusts in what I do as a coach and she believes in the program."
In the 100m final, Akinosun finished eighth in the event with a time of 11.45. As a freshman, Akinosun earned first team All-America honors for the first time in her career. The Aurora, Ill., native contributed one team point on the national level for the Orange and Blue.
"Morolake ran a good race," Buford-Bailey said. "She couldn't have asked for a better season as a freshman. To advance to the 100m final at the NCAA Championships as a freshman, you truly couldn't ask for more. It's the best experience she could ever have."
In the pole vault, Richartz earned All-America honors for the first time in her career. The defending Big Ten champion finished sixth with a mark of 14-1 1/4 (4.30m). Richartz concluded her year earning All-America honors indoors and winning her third Big Ten pole vault title.
"Stephanie is a gamer," Buford-Bailey said. "She always wants more. She knew she could've cleared the next bar, so she's very hungry for next year. I love her competitiveness."
Saturday is the conclusion of the NCAA Championships and the Illini women will compete in the 4x400m relay final. After resetting the school record in the event during the semifinals, the squad will look to add national points when the final is scheduled to start at 5:43 p.m. CT.
Illinois Friday Results at NCAA Championships
*= school record
1. Ashley Spencer, Illinois - 50.28*
2. Shaunae Miller, Georgia - 50.70
3. Phyllis Francis, Oregon - 50.86
4. Courtney Okolo, Texas - 51.96
5. Regina George, Arkansas - 51.97
6. Jody-Ann Muir, Mississippi State - 52.56
7. Lenora Guion-Firmin, Maryland Eastern Shore - 52.59
8. Erika Rucker, South Carolina - 53.20
8. Morolake Akinosun 11.45
5. Samantha Murphy 2:02.10 *
Pole Vault (FINAL)
6. Stephanie Richartz 14-1 1/4 (4.30m)