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Student anglers return to competition

South Boston News
*Austin Owens, *Hunter Edwards, Logan Ellis, Matthew Clark, *Slate George, *Cameron Shriver, Jackson Medlin, *Cameron Royster, Landen Shearin, *Kamren Smith, *Trevor Wallace, *Cooper Warren, *Tucker Warren, *Jaden Brewer, *Logan Brewer, *Mason Whitemore and *Austin Evans. (* denotes state qualifier) / September 02, 2020

The Mecklenburg County Youth Bassmasters recently competed in the BASS Nation of Virginia Youth State Championship and had several teams place in the tournament, which was held on Buggs Island Lake on Aug. 15-16.

The teams, consisting of students from Bluestone and Park View high and middle schools, as well as Kenston Forest in Kenbridge, performed well over the two-day tournament.

On the junior side of competition, the club took two top-10 positions at No. 4 and No. 8. The club also earned 12th and 16th place finishes.

The team of Trevor Wallace and Austin Evans came in fourth place in the junior division, catching six fish on the day for a total of 8.41 pounds, good for 197 points.

Tucker Warren and Cooper Warren won the Big Fish honor in the Junior Division with a 5.65 pound catch. The Warrens placed eighth overall, reeling in a two-fish total of 6.83 pounds. The team earned 193 points.

Placing 12th were Cameron Royster and Kamren Smith with three fish totaling 3.46 pounds, for 189 points. Cameron Shriver and Slate George finished 16th with 185 points.

The high school division welcomed 32 teams on the final day of the tournament. MCYB fielded two teams, earning a 19th and 27th place finish.

Totaling 182 points for 19th place, Jaden Brewer and Logan Brewer in Boat 22 hauled in four fish for a 7.70 pound total catch. Finishing in 27th place were Hunter Edwards and Austin Owens — the duo only caught one fish but made the most of that at 3.03 pounds, good for 174 points.

The club’s advisors, coaches Aleko Mangum and Steve Whitten, said the tournament results are a great testament to the resiliency of the kids.

“Our kids basically couldn’t do anything for a while because of the coronavirus,” Mangum said. “Covid shut down everything. We were supposed to be fishing in a tournament at Smith Mountain Lake the weekend that [spring] sports got cancelled.”

Magnum stated the kids haven’t actively competed since October 2019. “A lot of the kids are just getting back on the water,” he added.

Mecklenburg County as well as Southside Virginia were solidly represented in the state tourney, Mangum noted. The tournament launch site was the Occoneechee State Park boat ramp in Clarksville, so local teams had good community support.

“Out of maybe 50 teams, 11 of those teams were from Mecklenburg County,” Mangum explained. “We are becoming a premier, if not one of the strongest counties [for student angling] in the state. Brunswick Academy had a team competing, too.”

Mangum was proud of the fact that out of those 11 teams, six were MCYB teams. Mangum noted that the county’s other high school fishing club, Mecklenburg High School Anglers, also placed well at the event. MHSA went on to claim the top-two spots in the juniors competition. “I was just proud of all the kids from Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties,” said Mangum.

Mangum noted some teams had the opportunity to advance in state competition as other fishing groups that are formally tied to a school were unable to compete. Member schools of the Virginia High School League and some private schools have placed sports on hold until at least December.

The VHSL doesn’t sanction club sports in high schools, although it does recognize some clubs in non-athletic competitions. With club sports, individual schools make the decision on whether students can take part in competitions.

“Louisa County High School can’t compete again until 2021, I think,” Mangum noted. “They are a very strong program and would have qualified teams for the nationals I’m sure.” Magnum said he had heard in recent days of at least one fishing club that was possibly considering breaking ties with a school to be able to get back to tournament fishing.

Mangum added the MCYB club was fortunate to be able to return to competition. He noted it hasn’t been quite a year since the Mecklenburg County School Board moved to not have the club associated with the school division because of several reasons — liability for the kids and boat captains among them.

“At the time, I was disappointed but I can see the blessing in everything now,” Mangum said. “If we were still affiliated with the school, I don’t think we wouldn’t have been able to fish.”

Even though the tournament did take place, the student anglers were aware that COVID-19 safety measures were paramount.

“BASS youth director Jack Bapcock stressed social distancing and the wearing of masks continuously throughout the tournament,” Mangum stated. “I really feel it was the safety of all involved being put first — fishing second.”

Mangum said one thing he and Coach Whitten would like to see is more participation by girls in the club.

“We need more girls to get involved in the sport,” Mangum said. “We’d like to see more girls take advantage of this opportunity.”

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