If “Chaser’s Racers” was a designation that was certain to stick around Pacific Lutheran University men’s swimming teams of the 1970s, the Lutes needed a leading man to anchor the cause.
That man was Terry Ludwig.
Ludwig was former coach Gary Chase’s first recruit back in 1970. He was arguably his best swimmer during that golden decade in which the Lutes won eight Northwest Conference titles.
On Oct. 14, Ludwig, a five-time NAIA All-American, will be one of five former PLU greats to be inducted into that university’s athletic department hall of fame.
Ludwig’s historic 1973 NAIA national meet performance is one of the Lutes’ all-time great sports achievements.
But let’s rewind three years prior to that when PLU was not even on Ludwig’s radar.
The Sammamish High School standout was at Washington State University playing two sports — water polo and men’s swimming.
But that year, the university decided to cut the men’s swimming program.
In the summer of 1970, he met Chase at a local community pool in Bellevue. That is where he was convinced to transfer.
In 1970-71, Ludwig was the Lutes’ only swimmer to advance to the NAIA meet. He missed out on the finals of his best event – the 500-yard freestyle.
“I sat in the bleachers, and I watched that race,” Ludwig said. “And I said it was the last time I would sit on this bench and watch this event.”
Chase’s program was on the rise. For the next two years, Ludwig led the charge. He was undefeated in NWC dual meets, and captured 10 conference titles.
Then came the 1973 NAIA meet at Pittsburgh (Kan.) State University where Ludwig arrived as the top seed in the 200, 500 and 1,650 freestyle races. He also anchored the school’s 400 and 800 freestyle relays.
“I just had the natural ability to swim in a lot of events,” Ludwig said.
On Thursday, he won the 500 title. The next night, he eked out a win in the 200. And on Saturday, the final night of the meet, he captured the 1,650 crown.
His three NAIA national individual titles in one season is still a record.
Now 66, the former accountant swims in Masters 65-and-over races. Last year, he had a pair of top-10 finishes at the national championships in Gresham, Oregon.
“I am extremely excited and grateful about going into the (PLU hall of fame),” Ludwig said. “It shows that at some point in my life, when I dedicated myself to swimming, things fell into place for me.”
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