BARCELONA, Spain — After the NCAA Championships last month, Illinois' Ashley Spencer could call herself a national champion. She now can call herself a world champion.
The Illinois sophomore-to-be won the gold medal at the International Association of Athletics Federation World Junior Championships for the United States on Friday in the 400 meters.
Spencer, the NCAA 400 champ, set a championship record, crossing the finish line in 50.50 seconds.
"I can't put this into words," said Spencer, the second American to win an NCAA championship and a junior world championship in the same year. "It is pretty remarkable coming out of the country for the first time and winning gold at the World Juniors in a beautiful city like Barcelona. I am very happy but also very tired now. It is a blessing to end the season like this. To be on this level is incredible."
Spencer is the third American to win the 400 at the World Juniors. Monique Henderson won in 2002, and Natasha Hastings won in 2004.
"Ashley had a great race today," Illinois coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "She ran smart and came out with the win. This was the plan all along. After she broke the school record indoors in the 300, we knew that a World Juniors title was a possibility. This caps off an unbelievable freshman year. She is one of the most talented people I've ever come across. She has the most natural gift. If she continues to be physically fit and is smart, she will become one of the greatest."
Spencer is scheduled to run a leg on the United States' 1,600 relay team Sunday.