GENEVA, Ohio — Illinois coach Tonja Buford-Bailey first heard the chatter after her team finished second at last May’s Big Ten outdoor meet.
“They said second place was not good enough, that they only wanted to win,” Buford-Bailey said. “They’ve been talking a long time. This new generation likes to talk a lot, likes to get on Twitter and say what they’re going to do.
“I was just going to wait and see.”
Led by the incomparable Ashley Spencer, the Illini delivered on their promise Saturday, winning the school’s first Big Ten indoor title since 1996.
“They actually stepped up and backed up what they said,” Buford-Bailey said. “Their talk wasn’t cheap. That’s what made me most happy.”
The Illini celebrated by dousing Buford-Bailey with water and ice. Later Saturday, they dined at the Cheesecake Factory. Overall, a pretty good day.
“Awesome,” Spencer said. “Everybody did their part.”
Buford-Bailey vividly remembers the ’96 Illini. She was training for the Olympics alongside Gary Winckler’s star-studded team.
Moments after Saturday’s win, Buford-Bailey took a congratulatory phone call from Winckler.
“Now that was a tough group,” Buford-Bailey said of the ’96 champs, “an amazing group.”
Her current team isn’t too shabby, either.
Spencer won the 200- and 400-meter races for the second consecutive year, her time in the 400 (52.17 seconds) breaking a meet record. She also helped the 4x400 relay defend its conference title, teaming with Asia Thomas, Morolake Akinosun and Marissa Golliday to set a school record (3:33.30).
Akinosun, a freshman, won the 60 and was second in the 200. Breeana Coleman won the 60 hurdles. Samantha Murphy was second in the 800 and third in the 600, contributing 14 points as the Illini rallied on Day 2 of the event.
“To win a Big Ten title for our coach was really pleasing,” Spencer said.
In men’s track & field:
Squad places second. Stephon Pamilton (400 meters) and Brandon Stryganek (60 meters) were victorious, leading Illinois to second place at the Big Ten’s indoor meet in Geneva, Ohio.
Pamilton was clocked in 46.07, and Stryganek finished in 6.71.
The team finish was the Illini’s best since 2000.
“I am extremely proud of our coaches and team,” UI coach Mike Turk said. “We left everything we had on the track.”
Wisconsin placed first with 90 points, and Illinois totaled 87.50.
Kravetz delivers. John Kravetz allowed two runs in six-plus innings, leading Illinois to a 3-2 victory against New Mexico State in Greenville, N.C.
In men’s gymnastics:
Smurro, Wilner shine. Vince Smurro (floor exercise) and Mike Wilner (rings) won event titles, lifting seventh-ranked Illinois to a 438.600-438.000 road victory against fifth-ranked Ohio State.
In women’s gymnastics:
Weinstein triumphs. Alina Weinstein tied for first in the floor exercise, but No. 18 Illinois lost 196.300-195.450 to No. 20 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio.
Team ties for 11th. The Illini finished in an 11th-place tie at the Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis.