Lifetime Longhorn sees fast success in return to hurdles
RIO DE JANEIRO – Lifetime Longhorn Ashley Spencer was an elite 400 meter hurdler going into her collegiate career. An injury kept her from the event but then back-to-back NCAA titles in the 400 meters kept her away from her favorite event even longer.
Spencer made the return to the hurdles this year and it has paid off, not in spades, but in bronze.
The 400 meter hurdler won Olympic bronze on Thursday night from the Rio Olympic Games with a time of 53.27 seconds.
"I was definitely impressed with Ashley, not just tonight, but this entire week with this being her first Olympic Games," said Mario Sategna, Texas Head Coach and Team USA Men's Assistant Coach for Throws. "I think that happens because behind the scenes you have a three-time Olympian in the same event training her, and that being our Associate Head Coach Tonja Buford-Bailey."
Spencer utilized another strong execution of her race pacing like she did during the semifinals, not going out too hard and leaving enough in the tank for a strong closing 100 meters. She made her move over the eighth hurdle finding herself in sixth place. With two more hurdles to go, Spencer surged and ran hard in the final sprint to the line passing three competitors to claim the bronze.
"She looked like she kept her composure through the rounds and knew the task. She ran like a veteran all week," Sategna said. "You could see that she was not going to let this opportunity pass her by. She fought all the way to the finish to get on the podium. What a great night and great week for The University of Texas."
Buford-Bailey has coached Spencer her entire collegiate and professional career and has been able to pass her knowledge of the event down to Spencer being a three-time Olympian and Olympic bronze medalist in the event herself. Spencer's youth in the event and achieving this much success in her first year back at hurdling gives Buford-Bailey hope for a many more great things from Spencer in the future.
"That was not a technically good race but the preference was for her to run conservatively on the front end and storm home," Buford-Bailey said. "After this season we will spend more time on perfecting the stride and other part of the race. It was all too new and we could only cram so much in a small period of time.
"I'm so proud that she got bronze and was able to keep her composure here at The Games. The future is so bright for her in this event. I'm overjoyed for her."
This is the second medal won by a Longhorn in the women's 400 hurdles. Melaine Walker claimed the gold in 2008 for Jamaica.
Also running for Texas on Thursday night was Morolake Akinosun in the Women's 4x100 Relay for Team USA.
After Team USA was interfered with during the second exchange in the prelims during the morning session Thursday, the IAAF Jury of Appeals ruled in favor of the Americans' protest. Team USA was granted the opportunity to re-run the race, solo, at the start of the evening session.
With Akinosun on the anchor leg, Team USA ran 41.77 to qualify on time for the final. That final is slated for 8:15 p.m. Friday. Team USA has not announced its runners for the final. The team has the option to change two of the runners from the prelims to the finals for two other runners from its relay pool of six.