Sophomore Ashley Spencer was named 2013 Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year/Championships.
May 14, 2013
PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- Sophomore Ashley Spencer was named Big Track Athlete of the Year and of the Championships announced Tuesday by the conference office. Spencer, who also earned first-team All-Big Ten honors, won three Big Ten titles last weekend at the conference meet while four other Illinois women's track and field athletes garnered first team All-Big Ten selections. Three other Orange and Blue athletes earned second team All-Big Ten honors. Spencer (200m, 400m), along with senior Marissa Golliday, junior Ahlivia Spencer, junior Samantha Murphy (4x400m relay), as well as junior Stephanie Richartz (pole vault) took home conference crowns. Freshman Morolake Akinosun (100m), junior Jesica Ejesieme (4x100m relay) and Asia Thomas (4x100m relay) earned runner-up finishes at Ohio State's Jesse Owens Memorial Track, helping the Illini place second.
"What a great honor for Ashley," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "She worked much harder this year and was much more focused. Last year everything was happening so fast and she was having so much success so soon. This year she has been able to let it all soak in and work on specific parts of her races to be a better athlete. Samantha and Stephanie also receiving first team All-Big Ten is also a great accomplishment and they both bring so much to the team as well. We have a really good group of young ladies and I'm proud of how well they represent us on the conference and national level."
Spencer earns Big Ten Athlete of the Year for the first time in her career and the first time an Illini has been honored since Angela Bizzari in 2010. She becomes the seventh Illini to win the award. The sophomore notches Big Ten Outdoor Athlete of the Championships for the second straight year as she becomes just the second Illini to earn the award in back-to-back years. The last time an Orange and Blue athlete won the award in consecutive years was head coach Buford-Bailey in 1992-1993.
Spencer defended her 200m conference crown in a time of 23.20 which was her second best time of the season. The sophomore then won the 400m title in a time of 52.27 which was a season best and is the eighth best in the country. Spencer also was part of the winning 4x400m relay team which defended their title from last year as they won in a time of 3:36.18. The Indianapolis, Ind., native has now won 12 Big Ten titles in just two years.
Other outdoor track and field awards announced by the Big Ten included Nebraska's Mara Griva being named Field Athlete of the Year and Ohio State's Alexis Franklin earning Freshman of the Year. Griva also was named Field Athlete of the Championships while Penn State coach Beth Alford-Sullivan was named Coach of the Year after guiding the Nittany Lions to a conference victory.
The conference office also announced honorees from each team for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, with junior Katie Porada being selected from Illinois. The chosen student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sport-competition setting. These student-athletes are now candidates for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, as the conference office will honor one male and one female student-athlete from each institution at the end of the school year.
2013 Big Ten Women's Outdoor Individual Honors
Track Athlete of the Year - Ashley Spencer, Illinois
Field Athlete of the Year - Mara Griva, Nebraska
Freshman of the Year - Alexis Franklin, Ohio State
Track Athlete of the Championships - Ashley Spencer, Illinois
Field Athlete of the Championships - Mara Griva, Nebraska
Coach of the Year - Beth Alford-Sullivan