If there’s a vacancy on a team at St. Mark’s High School, Chris Ludman will probably step up to fill it. Most likely, he’ll do well.
Ludman, a junior, is in the middle of the basketball season. If you press him, he’ll tell you that this is his best sport and his favorite, along with baseball. But two seasons are not enough for this St. John the Beloved School graduate.
He played soccer, basketball and baseball since his freshman year. It took some doing, but this past fall, he moonlighted as the placekicker for the Spartans’ football team.
“I always wanted to play football since I was a little kid, but my mom would never let me. So I figured I’d try kicking. My mom told me she’s let me do that,” he said recently at the school.
The soccer and football seasons overlap, but only one time did the teams have conflicting games; he played soccer that day. As for practice, he would attend soccer, then head down the hill to the football field to practice kicking for an hour or so.
“It wasn’t that big of a difference, really,” he said. “My body held up pretty good, so that wasn’t a problem. In the beginning of the season I was a little tight, but I loosened up.”
He might have been the kicker, but he was called on to make one pass, which he completed for 13 yards – short of a first down by a yard, he noted. And he made one tackle, which, he said, made his mom cringe.
“That was fun. That was one of the highlights of my season,” he said.
As for soccer, he scored his first varsity goal this past season against St. Elizabeth. The best part about it was heading the ball into the net. That’s his favorite part of the game.
Once the fall sports wrap up, Ludman hits the court. He is the leading scorer for the surprising Spartans, who quietly entered the top 10 in two statewide polls in mid-January. This is his second year on the varsity.
“It’s been a great team effort this year. Our sophomores are starting to play really well. It’s just fun. Winning’s fun. So hopefully we can keep it up,” he said.
He said what he likes most about the sport is that he is always moving. Being pretty good helps make it his favorite, he admitted.
His basketball coach, Nick Sanna, has asked Ludman to defend the opponents’ best players, and the team demands a lot of him on offense as well. Not only does he score, but he makes his teammates better.
“He is good around the rim, he can post up, and he makes plays on the perimeter,” Sanna said. “His ability to make plays and create opportunities for his teammates has been one of the keys to our success. Most importantly, Chris is a great teammate and person.”
Once the spring rolls around, Ludman will trade his high-tops for baseball cleats. He plays just about anywhere on the field and has as long as he can remember. He played for a pretty good Newark National Little League when he was younger.
“Our team made it to the Mid-Atlantic regional semifinals and got to play on ESPN, so that was a cool experience,” he said.
He spent most of last season with the junior varsity before being called up to the varsity for the state playoffs. He said baseball is relaxing and fun, and the best part of the game is that fortunes could change at any time.
Sanna said he is impressed with Ludman’s dedication to all his activities.
“I have witnessed him first-hand – all in the same day in the middle of summer – go to weight training, come to a basketball workout, put his baseball uniform on, shove a sandwich down his throat and go take the mound in an American Legion game. That drive, that will to compete and passion for sports is impressive. It is not something you see every day,” Sanna said.
Not only that, Sanna continued, but Ludman is at the top of his class academically and makes schoolwork a priority. Being so busy with athletics forces athletes to become good time managers.
Ludman chose St. Mark’s partly because it’s close to home, but also for its academic and athletic reputations. “Plus, I heard the food was great.” He is beginning to think about college and would like to keep playing sports at the next level. If he is forced to choose one, he said he wouldn’t get tired of it, but he would miss the others.
There is one sport he has yet to master.
“I like to fish, but I’m not very good at it. I went fishing like 10 times this summer and didn’t catch anything.”