Jake Ruddy succinctly recounts the moment that transformed his above-the-rim attitude about PE basketball and threatened his senior track season at Marmion.
“Went up for a dunk, hung on the rim, came down like I was going headfirst, then put my arms out,” he said. “Then it just snapped both wrists and my left forearm.”
Ruddy lay writhing in pain Feb. 12 and had surgery two days later. On Friday, he qualified as a long jumper for this weekend’s 3A state meet in Charleston on his first attempt of the spring. The Batavia resident had only practiced jumping for two days.
As a result – and in a nod to his event – Ruddy extends himself when addressing the moment he got redemption on a freak accident.
“Everyone was so supportive through this whole thing. I got phone calls, texts, everything from coaches, family members, friends. I got cards in the mail,” Ruddy said. “That helped push me through all this terrible stuff, to be able to be here today and qualify.”
Going 22 feet, 4 inches at the Hoffman Estates Sectional, Ruddy captured the sectional title and landed in the middle of the pack of the 31 seeded athletes in 3A.
He also advanced to the state preliminaries as a junior, with his top jump of 21 1/4 falling 9.25 inches shy of the top-12 cut for finals
The Cadets hope to increase Ruddy’s chances of exceeding his PR – 22-9 at last season’s Suburban Christian Conference meet – and pushing for a finals berth by limiting his practice reps and other events.
A staple in the 100 and 200 meters as well as the 4x100 and 4x200 since joining the program as a sophomore, Ruddy competed as a sprinter in three meets when he returned from injury in April.
Although the multi sport standout (football, basketball) rebuilt his stamina and strength through stationary biking and physical therapy, the state series was a different story.
“We didn’t want to chance it,” Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said. “We don’t want to have him run a relay, get tripped and reinjure himself.”
Ruddy understands the cautious approach and also is working to adopt it. That’s an easier proposition given the soft cast he still wears on his left wrist.
While he understands a big weekend would bolster his aspirations to walk on at Iowa State – where he plans to study architecture beginning in the fall – Ruddy still sees his sport as an investment. He is looking to join the Aurora Sundowners Track Club this summer to gain more jumping experience.
As an eighth-grader, Ruddy broke the Annunciation School long jump record and decided to leave the sport. One year away was enough to convince him how much he missed it.
As a senior, Ruddy was out for a little more than two months, but not of his own volition. Last week, he completed his return, healthy and determined.
“Now I’m doing everything running and jumping,” Ruddy said. “It’s good.”