Carlinville track legend returns to home soil
By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Sports Reporter
The champ is here!
On Saturday night, Carlinville High School hosted an event known as Carlinville’s Got Talent in an attempt to raise money for its upcoming post prom festivities. In addition to the singing, instruments and dancing, there was also a very special group of judges selected to partake in this year’s votes. The most popular name was Carlinville High School graduate and former track star Tunde Ridley.
Ridley was a member of two state qualifying Carlinville track squads, including the high school’s lone state championship team that achieved unfinished business in 1996 after finishing runner-up the previous year. Individually, Tunde holds the school record for fastest time in the 100, 200 and 400 meter dashes. He brought home a championship medal for the long jump – in which he set a state record distance, triple jump, 100 meter dash and 200 meter dash during his senior season of 1996.
After graduation, Ridley attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study in the field of recreational management. He was a three-time NCAA Division I All-American and three-time Big Ten Conference Champion. In addition, Ridley earned both his bachelor and master’s degrees during his athletic career with the Illini. Despite suffering through an injury during his sophomore season, Ridley refused to call it quits and continued to dominate – thus earning himself the university’s Spirit Award.
By choosing the University of Illinois, Ridley was taken under the wing of track legend Willie Williams as his sprint coach. Williams had previously broken Jesse Owens’ 20-year Olympic world record with a 10.1 second race time in the 1956 100 meter dash.
In 2013, Tunde participated in the Masters World Track and Field Competition and earned titles in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes. Overall, Ridley has been awarded four medals – two gold and two silver – in United States of America Track & Field Masters’ championships.
Today, Tunde is a leader of the U.S Navy Fitness Facilities and Personnel in Washington D.C – one of the largest and most successful performance programs in the world. Ridley has also been recieving recent requests to help in improving astronaut rescue and auxiliary support stratagies for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Although he is very busy, Ridley is always willing to lend a helping hand in his hometown.
“This is my high school, this is my community and this is how I grew up. This event was excellent because it’s going to help the post prom and it’s going to help those kids have a safe, fun environment to go to versus doing something on their own. So, it absolutely feels great to be able to contribute,” said Ridley.