STAFF WRITER / Correspondent
Seniors Matt Luddy of the Berlin boys track team and Natasha Kempes of the St. Paul girls tennis team share Athlete of the Week honors for area scholastic sports.
Luddy has put together a fantastic season for the Redcoats, reaching new heights this season in the high jump. He broke the record for highest jump in Berlin history and then broke his own record later in the season with a 6-foot-7 jump.
One of the many interesting things about Luddy is that he has limited experience with the high jump and only gave it a try when he was cut from the baseball team a couple of years ago.
Since then, he has committed to the event and made enormous strides.
“I definitely practice a lot because the high jump is a really difficult form at first,” Luddy said. “Bending over backwards on the bar is not a natural thing to do. Basically you just have to be loose and never jump tight. Probably the curve is the most important thing, because if you don’t have a good curve you’re not going to have a good jump.”
Luddy doesn’t exactly have a mentor when it comes to high jumping, as his dad wasn’t familiar with the event and he doesn’t use an outside coach during the offseason.
The one person who he does get advice from is his head coach Rick Hanbury, who did several different events back in his competing days.
For the most part, though, it’s all on Luddy to work at it and continue to get better.
“At first it wasn’t easy,” he said. “But I was lucky because my first year on the team I was able to get a lot of practice time in before the season started, since we had good weather. It took about a couple of weeks before my form started to resemble what the high jump should look like and then with each practice and meet I started to get more comfortable.”
Now that his senior season is coming to a close, Luddy has a decision to make on whether he will continue with the sport. He has already decided to attend UConn and is considering walking on to the team there.
“I haven’t officially decided what I am going to do,” Luddy said. “But I think I am just going to send the UConn coach my stats and numbers, because they speak for themselves, and I think I am continuing to get better.”
Kempes competed in the NVL tennis singles championships and finished second last week.
“My experience with this year with the NVLs was not as great as the past years,” Kempes said.
“Semis against [teammate] Victoria [Kilbourne] completely drained me. I went 7-5, 7-6 in that game and then playing Ally [Mayne of Woodland in the finals], I was so out of it energy-wise. I gave all the effort and everything I had left in me, but it wasn’t enough and I am sad I wasn’t able to come out winning my senior year, but I am glad I got the chance again.”
Kempes’ St. Paul highlights include going undefeated as the team’s No. 1 singles player for the past two years. She was the NVL individual champion for two years.
“I look forward to what’s in store for Natasha. I wish her the best of luck as she continues to pursue her dreams and am confident she will be successful in all aspects of her life,” St. Paul coach Beth Hines said.
Up next for Kempes is the State Open individual competition next week.
“I feel like towards the end of the season sometimes I lack the intensity and drive that I had when the season first starts, so I am working every day with my coach to try and prepare myself for the states,” Kempes said. “My goal is to try and make it farther than I did last year.”
As far as next year, Kempes is planning to take a year off before going to Lynn University in Florida, where she plans to major in sports management, minor in biology and play on the women’s tennis team.