Women's Cross Country, Track & Field
Spencer Honored for Outstanding Performances at Big Ten's

Freshman Ashley Spencer was named Big Ten Track Athlete of the Championships and Freshman of the Year after winning three Big Ten titles.
Freshman Ashley Spencer was named Big Ten Track Athlete of the Championships and Freshman of the Year after winning three Big Ten titles.

May 15, 2012

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PARK RIDGE, Ill. - Coming off an extremely successful weekend at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, freshman Ashley Spencer was named Big Ten Track Athlete of the Championships and Freshman of the Year, 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 earned second team All-Big Ten honors. Spencer (200m, 400m), along with seniors Latoya Griffith, Ashley Kelly and Ryisha Boyd (4x400m relay), as well as Griffith (400m hurdles) and sophomore Stephanie Richartz (pole vault) took home conference crowns while sophomore's Breeana Coleman (100m hurdles) and Jesica Ejesieme (100m hurdles) along with the 4x100m relay squad of Ejesieme, Kelly, junior Kayla Smith and Spencer earned runner-up finishes at Wisconsin's McClimon Track, helping the Illini tie for second-place, the highest finish since the 2007 season.

"These honors for Ashley (Spencer) are well deserving," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "She was definitely the shining star of the meet. I think everyone there enjoyed watching her run. As a freshman to break all the records she did, it's well deserved."

Spencer is the first Illini to win the title of Big Ten Outdoor Athlete of the Championships since Cassie Hunt earned it in 2005 while she's the first Illini runner to earn Outdoor Freshman of the Year honors in 11 years, as Susanna Kallur last earned the title in 2001. She becomes the sixth overall Orange and Blue athlete to win the Big Ten Outdoor Athlete of the Championships award and seventh to earn Freshman of the Year accolades.

The freshman won the Big Ten 400m crown, edging Iowa's Ashley Liverpool and breaking the school record in the event with a time of 51.02, smashing the 22-year old record set by Celena Mondie-Miller in 1989. Spencer then won the 200m, where her time of 22.99, ranks third-fastest in school history. Her conference titles in the 200m and 400m marked the first time an Illini had won both events since head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey accomplished the feat in 1993. Spencer also was part of the winning 4x400m relay team which holds the second-fastest time in the school record books and is the second woman to ever win the 200m, 400m, and 4x400m triple at a conference meet in Illinois outdoor history since Buford-Bailey last earned the feat.

Other outdoor track and field awards announced by the Big Ten included Ohio State's Christina Manning being named Track Athlete of the Year. Ohio State's Alexis Thomas picked up Field Athlete of the Year and of the Championships. Ohio State's head coach Karen Dennis was named Coach of the Year after guiding the Buckeyes to its second consecutive outdoor title.

The conference office also announced honorees from each team for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, with senior Ashley Kelly 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.

2012 Big Ten Women's Outdoor Individual Honors

Track Athlete of the Year
Christina Manning, Ohio State

Field Athlete of the Year
Alexis Thomas, Ohio State

Freshman of the Year
Ashley Spencer, Illinois

Track Athlete of the Championships
Ashley Spencer, Illinois

Field Athlete of the Championships
Alexis Thomas, Ohio State

Coach of the Year
Karen Dennis, Ohio State

First Team
Ryisha Boyd, Illinois
Latoya Griffith, Illinois
Ashley Kelly, Illinois
Stephanie Richartz, Illinois
Ashley Spencer, Illinois
McKenzie Melander, Iowa
Erin Pendleton, Michigan
Leah O'Connor, Michigan State
Marusa Cernjul, Nebraska
Ashley Miller, Nebraska
Anna Weigandt, Nebraska
Aisha Cavin, Ohio State
Christienne Linton, Ohio State
Christina Manning, Ohio State
Chesna Sykes, Ohio State
Alexis Thomas, Ohio State
Laura Loht, Penn State
Kara Millhouse, Penn State
Dani Bunch, Purdue
Leah Eber, Purdue
Jessica Flax, Wisconsin

Second Team
Breeana Coleman, Illinois
Jesica Ejesieme, Illinois
Kayla Smith, Illinois
Jordan Gray, Indiana
Monique Riddick, Indiana
Betsy Flood, Iowa
Ashley Liverpool, Iowa
Alexandra Leptich, Michigan
Emily Pendleton, Michigan
Jillian Smith, Michigan
Kiley Tobel, Michigan
Rebecca Buchholtz, Michigan State
Todea-Kay Willis, Minnesota
Mara Griva, Nebraska
Madison McNary, Ohio State
Doris Anyanwu, Penn State
Ijeoma Iheoma, Penn State
Lauren Kenney, Penn State
Melissa Kurzdorfer, Penn State
Dynasty McGee, Penn State
Kirsten Nieuwendam, Penn State
Dorcas Akinniyi, Wisconsin

Sportsmanship Award Honorees
Ashley Kelly, Illinois
Emma Kimoto, Indiana
Betsy Flood, Iowa
Emily Pendleton, Michigan
Rebekah Smeltzer, Michigan State
Chimerem Okoroji, Minnesota
Breanna Bussel, Nebraska
Maggie Mullen, Ohio State
Doris Anyanwu, Penn State
Leah Eber, Purdue
Megan Beers, Wisconsin