Ex-Illini Ridley putting degree to use at camp
URBANA – His collegiate track career might have come to an end, but former Illini Babatunde Ridley hopes to keep running in his future.
He already has if his work this summer with the Urbana Park District is an indication.
After finishing his final season of eligibility, which included setting a pair of school records (60 meters, 200) at the Big Ten Indoor Championships this past winter, Ridley is putting his track background to good use as a camp supervisor for the park district's summer Sports Adventure Camp.
On Thursday, Ridley will be on hand as the campers compete in an anti-tobacco track meet held at the UI Track, a place where Ridley enjoyed some memorable moments. Ridley, 22, sees talent – and maybe even some future track stars – in the young campers who will compete in the meet, organized by the park district and The Carle Foundation.
"There are some pretty good athletes," said the UI All-American, who uses warmup track exercises to prepare the campers for the day's events. "There are some that are really fast, and they are really excited about the meet."
Judging from his collegiate career, where the Collinsville High graduate received national accolades in both indoor and outdoor competition, Ridley is at home when he's running. But he's also comfortable in the business and administrative aspects of the sport.
He graduated with a bachelor's degree in tourism and recreation and is on schedule to receive his master's degree in recreation management from UI in August. He then plans on going to San Diego and begin training to compete once again.
"I gave up competing and took eight weeks off," Ridley said. "I just want to continue to run and get started running fast again."
Ridley, with his business education in the background for the future, hopes to gain a sponsor. Then, if all goes well, he'll compete in national events.
"My focus will be on the 200," said Ridley, who set a school record at 21.2 second in the 200 at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in late February.
The all-Big Ten performer was a standout in high school, where he won four individual state titles (100, 200, long jump, triple jump) as a senior to lead Collinsville to the Class A team state championship in 1996. He won five individual state titles during his prep career.
Ridley gained all-conference honors as a member of the UI 4x100 relay team as a freshman.
With a good handle on his future, Ridley is focused at the matter on hand. That's helping today's youth experience the benefit of sports. His work in the organizing and preparation of Thursday's meet might be the beginning of pushing Ridley on his way.
The meet will feature conventional events like the shot put and long jump, along with less conventional events like the ashtray toss.
"A lot of people are talking about it," Ridley said. "(The kids) want to do it, and maybe they'll want to keep running."
Just like Ridley.
DON'T GET LEFT IN THE SMOKE
The Urbana Park District will hold a anti-tobacco track meet Thursday at the UI Track. Former Illini Babatunde Ridley has been preparing the young campers for the event, which will feature the following events:
– Relay races
– Ash tray toss
– shot put
– long jump
Note: The meet features members of the UPD's Sports Adventure Camp. It begins at 9 a.m.