FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Ashley Spencer ran the fastest indoor 400 meters in the history of Illinois women’s track and field Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough for the defending outdoor champion to claim another NCAA title.
In fact, it wasn’t fast enough to finish in the top two.
The Illini sophomore placed third in the 400 finals at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in 51.27 seconds, breaking her own school record for the second time in as many days.
Georgia freshman Shaunae Miller, who competed in the 2012 Olympics for the Bahamas, won in 50.88 seconds. Chicago native Regina George, an Arkansas senior running on her home track, finished second in 51.05.
Competing in the second of two sections of the 400 final, Spencer knew going into her race what time she needed to beat since Miller had competed in Section 1.
Although the Indianapolis native wasn’t able to surpass Miller’s or George’s performances, Spencer did rewrite the UI record book yet again, eclipsing the 51.55 clocking she ran on Friday in the preliminaries. Spencer, who entered the season as the Illini record-holder in the indoor 400 (53.45), now has bettered that mark four times this season.
For her career, Spencer owns six of the top eight Illini indoor 400 times in program history.
Juniors Samantha Murphy and Stephanie Richartz and senior Marissa Golliday also scored team points for Illinois.
Murphy placed fourth in the 800, breaking her own school record with a time of 2:03.95. Her previous best was 2:04.17.
Golliday broke a 19-year-old school record in the pentathlon while finishing seventh. Her score of 4,167 points eclipsed the mark of 4,148 by Carmel Corbett that had stood since 1994.
Richartz, the reigning Big Ten indoor champion in the pole vault, placed eighth while tying her school record by clearing 13 feet, 111/4 inches.
Both Illini 1,600 relays finished ninth, one spot out of the scoring. The Illini men’s unit of DJ Zahn, Malcolm Taylor, Juan Green and Stephon Pamilton was timed at 3:07.86 — 0.02 second shy of its season best.
The Illini women’s Big Ten champion foursome of Golliday, Moroake Akinosun, Asia Thomas and Spencer ran the team’s second-fastest time of the season, 3:35.30.
The Illini women finished 14th in the team standings, highest among Big Ten teams.
Illini sweep Baylor. John Kravetz pitched eight shutout innings and Thomas Lindauer drove in two runs to lead Illinois to a 6-1 victory against Baylor on Saturday night, capping a three-game series sweep of the Bears at Waco, Texas.
Earlier Saturday, pinch hitter Ryan Nagle drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th inning and the Illini held on for a 5-4 victory in the opener of a doubleheader.
The Illini (10-4) have won nine of their last 10 games.
Kravetz took a three-hit shutout into the ninth inning but hit the first two batters he faced. Reliever Ronnie Muck, who walked two batters to force in a run, got the final three outs to close the game and earn his second save.
Illinois jumped on the Bears (7-9) early, taking the lead for good with three runs in the first inning. Lindauer delivered a two-out, two-run single to cap the rally.
Will Krug went 3 for 4 for the Illini, who outhit Baylor 13-3. Jordan Parr hit his third home run of the season and was one of three Illini with two hits, along with Lindauer and Kelly Norris-Jones.
In the day’s first game, the Illini mounted their winning rally with two outs and no runners on base. Brandon Hohl singled to center field to keep the inning alive, and Davis Hendrickson took base on an infield single. Nagle then lined an 0-1 pitch through the left side to plate Hohl.
Illini reliever Tyler Jay (1-1) retired the first Baylor batter in the bottom of the 11th before Reid Roper came on to record his third save of the season. Jay worked 31/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit while striking out four.
Krug went 3 for 6 with two runs. Lindauer hit his second home run of the season, a solo shot to lead off the seventh inning to tie the score at 4-4.
In women’s golf:
Illini trail field. Illinois is last out of 16 teams through two rounds of the Clover Cup at Mesa, Ariz. The Illini shot consecutive 321s and stand 10 strokes out of 15th place entering today’s final round.
Crystal Smith and Samantha Postillion carded 77s in the second round for the top Illini scores of the day. Illini leader Smith is tied for 59th.