UI''s Ridley misses out on history

   It was one small misstep for a man. But it would have been a giant leap for Babatunde Ridley.

   The Illinois junior finished second Saturday in the men''s long jump at the 99th Big Ten Championships in West Lafayette, Ind., with a season best of 25 feet, 5 1/2 inches.

   Yet he created more gasps with his third attempt, measured at 25-1 1/4. He blasted off the takeoff board but brushed his hand in the sand at a point that might have cost him 1 1/2 feet.

   The meet record of 26-8 1/4 by Jesse Owens has stood since 1935.

   Penn State''s George Audu won with a wind-aided 25-8 3/4.

   "I hit the right positions in the air," Ridley said. "I just finished the jump way too early."

   It might be too early to dismiss Illini chances at their first team title since 1994, although they trail defending champion Minnesota 75 1/2-13. In the Big Ten indoor meet, the Illini were behind eventual winner Michigan State 50-6 with a day left and cut the margin to 107-89.

   The Illini have 14 qualifiers for today''s finals, including George McDonald-Ashford and Ridley in both the 100 and 200 meters. But McDonald-Ashford, the Big Ten indoor champ at 60 meters, limped off the track after his 200 trial with a muscle strain.

   Also qualifying in both sprints was Atlanta Falcons kick returner Tim Dwight of Iowa. He is allowed by NCAA rules to be a pro in football and an amateur in track.

   Illinois'' worst setback was the disqualification of Randy Gillon by a false start in the high hurdles. He was third in the conference indoors.

   Illini sophomore Sherman Armstrong had the top times in the 110 and 400 hurdles at 14.01 and 51.83 seconds, respectively. Freshman Jason Van Swol (1:50.35) and two-time defending champ Bobby True (1:51.25) won their 800 heats with the day''s fastest times.

   Host Purdue leads the women''s standings with 85 points.

   Illinois stands sixth with 19 points but equaled Ohio State and Wisconsin for the most qualifiers (10).

   Minnesota''s Aubrey Schmitt won the shot put at 51-0 3/4, beating six-time conference champion Collinus Newsome of Illinois (50-10 1/4). Indiana''s Jennifer Brown, a St. Joseph-Ogden product, was third (47-5).

   Illinois'' Tisha Ponder long jumped 20-3 1/2 to place fourth. Teammate Kerry Ann Richards clocked 11.38 to lead qualifiers in the 100 meters.

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