State Stories

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IHSA & Special Olympics Team Up to Conduct Unified Bass Fishing Tournament

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The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) made history in 2009 when the Association conducted the first high school bass fishing state tournament in the country. As the tournament prepares for its seventh annual installment at Carlyle Lake in Carlyle on May 15-16, 2015, the IHSA will team-up with Special Olympics Illinois to make history again.

The IHSA Board of Directors announced in February that the IHSA and Special Olympics Illinois will jointly conduct a unified high school bass fishing tournament in conjunction with the 2015 IHSA Bass Fishing State Finals at Carlyle Lake.

“Special Olympics Illinois is very excited about the Unified division that is included as a part of this year’s IHSA Bass Fishing Tournament,” said Tracy Hilliard, Special Olympics Illinois Vice President-Sports and Competition. “It is excellent opportunity to provide diverse students involvement in high school athletics. The tournament is another positive step in building a partnership between the Illinois High School Association and Special Olympics Illinois.”

The inaugural unified tournament will feature four schools, as students from Huntley High School, Maine South High School, Niles Notre Dame and Pontiac High School will all be represented. Each unified boat will feature three participants: a non-competing adult driver/coach, a Special Olympics athlete Olympian, and a fellow high school student peer partner. The teams can sub boat participants out without limitation throughout the duration of the tournament.

“The unified tournament will mirror the state final tournament in just about every way,” said IHSA Associate Director Kurt Gibson. “There is great camaraderie on the water during this tournament and I know our state qualifying boats look forward to fishing alongside the unified teams. The great thing is that Carlyle Lake’s size, and the diligent work by the Army Corp of Engineers to maintain it, means we have plenty of room for the unified tournament to grow and get more competitors involved in the future.”

The unified boats will be released in order, via a random draw, at 7:00 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday, with fishing concluding at 3:00 p.m. each day for weigh-ins. The three unified boats will weigh their fish first, with medallions being presented to the members of the Top 3 finishing teams during an award ceremony following weigh-ins on Saturday. Standings at the IHSA Bass Fishing State Finals are based upon the cumulative weight of all fish caught by a boat over the course of Friday and Saturday’s competition. A boat can present a maximum of five fish to be weighed each day, which are stored in a “live well” attached to the boat during competition. After catching five fish, a boat can continue to fish, replacing smaller fish in its live well with a larger catch.

“The bass fishing tournament has been a positive addition for the IHSA and our state. That sentiment grows with the addition of the unified bass fishing tournament,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman, a past Special Olympics Illinois Board member. “I continue to be proud of the IHSA’s ability to create more participation opportunities for high school students, whether it be through this wonderful partnership with Special Olympics, the programs for Athletes with Disabilities we have added in bowling, swimming and track, or our wheelchair basketball tournament.”