Buford-Bailey headed back to Olympics

Buford-Bailey headed back to Olympics

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CHAMPAIGN – Tonja Buford-Bailey is headed back to the Olympics, this time as a coach.

The Illinois women's track and field head coach was nominated to serve as an assistant on the Team USA staff for the 2012 Olympics in London, USA Track & Field announced Thursday.

All Olympic team staff selections are pending final approval of the U.S. Olympic Committee's chief executive officer.

During her competitive career, Buford-Bailey was a three-time Olympian who earned a bronze medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, becoming the first female Illini athlete to win an Olympic medal. She also made the U.S. Olympic teams in 1992 and 2000.

For the 2012 Olympics, Buford-Bailey will work with women's sprinters and hurdlers as an aide to U.S. women's head coach Amy Deem, the University of Miami women's head coach.

"I am really excited to go to London and do what I can do to help Team USA," Buford-Bailey said. "I look forward to get back into that atmosphere since my last Olympic experience was in 2000 in Sydney."

This is the third time Buford-Bailey has been selected to a Team USA coaching staff for an international competition. She previously served as the women's sprints/hurdles coach at the 2009 World Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Berlin, and filled the same role at the 2007 Pan American Junior Championships, at which her event-group athletes won nine of Team USA's 23 medals.

"It is a great honor to be selected to the Olympic coaching staff," Buford-Bailey said. "I was fortunate to get to know the top athletes when I coached in Berlin at the World Championships, so it will be great to work with them again."

Illini in U.S. tryouts. One future and five current Illini volleyball players are scheduled to participate in open tryouts for various USA Volleyball women's teams Feb. 25-27 at Colorado Springs, Colo.

Junior outside hitter Colleen Ward, junior right-side hitter Michelle Bartsch and redshirt sophomore setter Annie Luhrsen will be in the pool of players trying out for the U.S. Women's National A2 Team. The A2 program is one tier below the U.S. Women's National Team.

Illini competing for spots on the U.S. Junior National Team are freshman outside hitter Jazmine Orozco, freshman libero Jennifer Bonilla and incoming freshman Liz McMahon, a right-side hitter from Liberty Township, Ohio. Orozco and Bonilla also are eligible for consideration for the A2 program.

Illini head coach Kevin Hambly is among the tryout staff personnel who will assist U.S. Women's National Team head coach Hugh McCutcheon and his staff.

USA Volleyball had a record 208 athletes sign up for the tryouts for the women's national, A2 and junior national rosters.

Swim team falls to 11th. The Illinois women's swimming and diving team fell to 11th place in the second day of the Big Ten Championships in Bloomington, Ind.

The 200-yard freestyle relay team of Kristin Manias, Erin Lamb, Elizabeth Bell and Courtney Pope scored the only point for the Illini on the day with a season-best time of 1 minute, 33.56 seconds, the sixth-fastest time in school history.