Ashley Spencer is one of seven Illini to qualify for the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend in Nampa, Idaho.
March 6, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The University of Illinois women's track team qualified seven athletes to compete in this weekend's NCAA Indoor Championships, as the official declaration list was announced Monday night. The select Illini will compete at the indoor championships for the first time in their careers and will contest in four events including Illinois school record holder Ashley Spencer running in the 200m as well as the 4x400m relay team with seniors Ashley Kelly and Latoya Griffith along with freshman Asia Thomas. Sophomore's Breeana Coleman and Stephanie Richartz will also compete, with Coleman running in the 60m hurdles and Richartz in the pole vault.
"It is really hard to qualify athletes to the NCAA Indoor Championships," said head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey. "So to get seven girls to the national meet shows how our program is improving. I think we've been constantly getting better this season and it showed last weekend at the Big Ten Championships and hopefully this weekend as well."
Freshman Ashley Spencer, a three-time Big Ten Champion, broke the school record in the 200m when she timed a season-best mark of 23.24 at the Tyson Invitational, just off the NCAA qualifying time. Spencer has finished first in the event four times this season and takes the seventh seed in the 200m. She is the first Illini 200m runner to qualify since Aleisha Latimer accomplished the feat in 2000. The prelims of the 200m are scheduled for 8:45 p.m. CT on Friday, March 9, with the top-eight runners advancing to the finals later that night at 10 p.m. CT.
Breeana Coleman will look to become a NCAA champion as the Illini qualified in the 60m hurdles with a time of 8.17. The sophomore set the personal-best time at the Big Ten Championships where she finished runner-up in the event. Coleman will run the prelims in the event at 6:45 p.m. CT with the finals on Saturday at 7:45 p.m. CT.
In the field events, Richartz is the first Illini to qualify in the pole vault in school history, and will compete in the event on Saturday, March 10 at 6 p.m. CT. The Island Lake, Ill., native has broken the school record in five of the six competitions this year, including the most recent mark of 13-11 (4.24m) at the Alex Wilson Invitational last weekend. The pole vault final will happen on 6 p.m. CT.
The 4x400 meter relay team of Spencer, Kelly, Griffith and Thomas is the third squad in the past six seasons to qualify for nationals with the latest team being in 2009. This year's squad holds the fastest mark in school history with a time of 3:34.89, set at the Big Ten Championships, a new Big Ten meet record. In addition, sophomore Jesica Ejesieme will be an alternate for the relay. The squad will take the track at 9:40 p.m. CT.
ESPN3 will stream the meet live on March 9 from 6:30-10:45 p.m. CT and March 10 from 7-10:15 p.m. CT. A tape delay of the championship will air Sunday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU. NCAA.com and broncosports.com will stream what ESPN3 is not covering on Friday (11-6:30 p.m. CT) and Saturday (11:30-7 p.m. ET).