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Stepping Up

Lebanon Senior Finds Groove At Right Time

  • Lebanon’s Kelly Ludew competes in long jump at the Hanover Invitational yesterday in Hanover. Ludew is also a standout hurdler for the Raiders, and she’s regained her form after a slow start. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Lebanon’s Kelly Ludew competes in long jump at the Hanover Invitational yesterday in Hanover. Ludew is also a standout hurdler for the Raiders, and she’s regained her form after a slow start. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon High’s Kelly Ludew, shown competing in the long jump at the Hanover Invitational yesterday, is hoping to help return the Raiders to state title glory. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Lebanon High’s Kelly Ludew, shown competing in the long jump at the Hanover Invitational yesterday, is hoping to help return the Raiders to state title glory. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon’s Kelly Ludew competes in long jump at the Hanover Invitational yesterday in Hanover. Ludew is also a standout hurdler for the Raiders, and she’s regained her form after a slow start. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Lebanon High’s Kelly Ludew, shown competing in the long jump at the Hanover Invitational yesterday, is hoping to help return the Raiders to state title glory. (Valley News - Libby March)

Hanover — Even athletes as experienced as senior Kelly Ludew sometimes have trouble finding their rhythm.

A mighty contributor to the Lebanon High girls track and field team since her freshman year, the hurdles ace struggled with form early in her senior campaign.

It began over the winter during the indoor season, when her fourth-place time of 9.39 seconds in the 55-meter hurdles at the New Hampshire Division II state championships was her worst showing in four years competing at the meet.

Having difficulty maintaining form while three-stepping between hurdles, Ludew’s struggles continued into the early part of the outdoor season. It wasn’t until the second half of the schedule that her times in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles began clocking similarly to last year, when she swept both events at the D-II outdoor state meet, with times of 15.34 and 45.69, respectively. With recent wins in at the Connecticut Valley Conference championship meet and Tuesday’s last chance meet at Lebanon High School, Ludew appears poised to defend her titles at next Saturday’s D-II meet at Pelham High.

“To run hurdles well, you basically have to be a perfectionist,” Ludew said at yesterday’s Hanover Invitational, where she was limited to the long jump and relay events. “Hurdles are a lot more than just sprinting. There are so many technical aspects to it and so many things going through your mind. The key is to stay aggressive (between hurdles), but to do that you have to have your three-step down.”

The early-season struggles were somewhat of a mystery both for Ludew and for Raiders’ assistant coach Chris Stone, who’s worked closely with her for several years. Being perplexed is understandable, given Ludew’s resume of eight podium finishes and four individual championships in hurdles events alone, to say nothing of her contributions in the long jump (three podiums) and on relay teams. Not including relays, Ludew has racked up 93 points for the Raiders at state championship meets. She peaked as a junior, sweeping every hurdles event at states, indoors and out.

“Sometimes you come into a season and mentally, you’re just not ready,” Stone said. “Perfecting a three-step is a difficult thing to do; you’re always having to work at it. But that’s what practice is for and it’s been coming back to her. She’s determined to be good at it.”

Ludew is dedicated to track year round, running with the Raiders’ cross country team to help maintain endurance and engaging in core training and weight lifting in her free time. The dedication is noticeable for classmate Moriah Morton, a three-time D-II javelin champion who’s watched Ludew progress over the years.

“Track is one of those sports where some kids are going to do it just to stay in shape or just for fun,” said Morton, who hopes to break her own D-II javelin mark of 125 feet, one inch, next Saturday. “Having Kelly around has been great because she’s very self-motivated and has worked hard at it over the years. She’s always been really fast and always trying to get better at the hurdles.”

Morton and Ludew are holdovers from Lebabon’s dominant teams of recent years, helping the Raiders secure the last two of the program’s five consecutive outdoor state titles when they were freshmen and sophomores. With Morton staring for the Raiders’ girls basketball team, Ludew also helped Lebanon win indoor titles in 2010-11, capping a run of four Raider indoor crowns in six years.

The graduation of versatile talent Cathy Liebowitz (now competing for Dartmouth College), Annie Pullen (now at Boston University) and others coincided with a decline in numbers, and proud Lebanon slipped to eighth at indoors and fourth at outdoors last year.

“It was definitely a bit of a transition, just coming up as a freshman onto a team that was so strong and so dominant and then all of a sudden being on teams that weren’t quite as good,” Ludew said. “But no matter what, our goal is always to be peaking at states and you never know what can happen.”

The Raiders got a confidence boost on May 11, hosting and winning the CVC championships behind victories from Ludew and Morton, plus sophomore distance runner Nell Houde (1,600 meters) and freshman jumper Lauren Anikis, who won the triple jump and was second in the high jump.

Anikis is part of a strong Lebanon freshman class also featuring sprinters Emily Kovacs and Lauren Simard, both capable of scoring for the Raiders at states.

Morton is also encouraged by what she has seen at the youth level.

“The team hasn’t been as big the last couple years, but right now there are 50 kids in the junior high program and 60 in the Plainfield youth program,” Morton said.

“I imagine, in the next couple years, you’re going to see the team return to form.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.

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