Illini Head to Ohio for Spire Invitational
Feb. 7, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The Fighting Illini women's track and field team will square off against an elite field when it heads to Geneva, Ohio on Feb. 8-9. The meet will be held at the SPIRE Division I Track & Field Invitational and is the site of the 2013 Big Ten Indoor Championships. Competition will begin on Friday at 1 p.m. and at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.
"This is the first time this season where our full team is competing in the same location," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "It's special for us since we are weeks away from the Big Ten Championship meet. I feel as if we have set some solid marks this indoor season so far. Our hopes for this meet are to continue to run consistently at our best while being challenged by more competitive teams and especially those in the Big Ten. We still have some races that we have not contended yet so it will be exciting to finally see what we can do in those events. For example, Ashley Spencer will run in her first open 400m, Alyssa Schneider in the 5,000m and the DMR where we are targeting the school record."
Illinois will face at least six Big Ten foes as Indiana, Michigan, No. 24 Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin will be in attendance. The meet will provide a preview for the Big Ten Indoor Championships (Feb. 28-29), as the conference meet will be ran at a neutral site for the first time.
The Illini will send 26 athletes to the meet, including four individuals and one relay team who lead the conference in their respective events as well as each ranking in the top-13 in the nation. After setting the seventh fastest time in school history last weekend, freshman Morolake Akinosun leads the four Illini in the 60m dash. Akinosun will also run the 200m, along with sophomore Ashley Spencer who is coming off her season best time of 23.42, which is currently ninth-fastest in the nation. Junior Breeana Coleman highlights the 60m hurdles crew as the Olathe, Kan., native won the title last weekend at the Husker Invite.
The Illini are sending three relay teams to the Invitational, looking to lower their time. The quartet of Jesica Ejesieme, Akinosun, Spencer and Marissa Golliday will run this weekend. Last weekend at the Husker Invite, the team of Ahlivia Spencer, Akinosun, Samantha Murphy and Ashley Spencer won the title with the seventh fastest relay time in school history (3:36.64) and sit at the eighth best in the NCAA. The Orange and Blue will run the Distance Medley Relay for the first time this season, with Murphy, both Spencer's and Katie Porada.
In the 400m, sophomore Asia Thomas looks for another title in the event as she won the Illini Classic and Illini Open crown while also holding the third fastest time in the conference this year. Ashley Spencer will also run in the 400m. Also keep an eye on junior Samantha Murphy in the 800m, as she currently holds the second fastest time in the conference (2:06.66) and 11th best in the nation. Three Illini will compete in the mile this weekend, as senior Madeline Aufmann and junior Katie Porada both set career bests in the event at the IU Relays a few weeks ago.
After running a 3,000m time just outside the school's top-10 list a few weeks ago, freshman Alyssa Schneider will bump up to the 5,000m this week while junior Meghan Frigo and sophomore Colette Falsey will compete in the 3,000m.
In the field events, junior Stephanie Richartz continues to improve in the pole vault, after setting a season-best mark (4.18m) last weekend. Her mark ranks first in the Big Ten and is 10th in the nation. Other field event competitors to keep an eye on are senior Marissa Golliday in the high jump, freshman Mobolaji Adeokun in the long jump and sophomore Mariah Smith in the weight throw.
The Illini will have a week off before traveling back to Geneva, Ohio to compete in the 2013 Big Ten Indoor Championships on Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23.