School sinks fishing team after state birth

Grayslake, Ill. – When the bell rang at the end of the school
day, 17-year-old Karl Wenckebach Jr. was out the door as fast he
could go – eager to be part of the school’s new bass fishing
team.

“It was pretty awesome to have a fishing team for school,”
Wenckebach said.

Bass fishing was also new to the Illinois High School
Association, which recognized it as an activity this year. Illinois
is the first state to recognize fishing, according to IHSA
assistant executive director Matt Troha.

Schools from all over the state – large and small, rural and
urban – competed at 18 sectional sites April 24 for the right to
fish at the state finals May 8-9 in downstate Carlyle.

That includes Grayslake North High School.

Wenckebach was one of two students who qualified for state
finals out of a team of about six students. He and the other
student were geared up to go when the school abruptly told them
they could not go.

“We finally get something cool. I look forward to going to
school, and it can’t happen because they shot it down,” Wenckebach
said.

While the Bass Fishing Club at Grayslake North was approved as a
pilot program for the 2009-10 school year, the trip to Carlyle Lake
for state finals was not approved, according to Scott Fech,
director of staff services.

As the May 8-9 IHSA State Finals arrived, it appeared as though
Grayslake North would not be competing.

“While this situation is unfortunate, the proper procedures were
not followed to receive building administrative approval prior to
participating in and registering for these activities,” Fech wrote
in an e-mail.

As this issue of Illinois Outdoor News went to press, some were
hopeful for a last-second change of heart. But it was not
expected.

The reasons for pulling out of the competition involved
procedure. Pre-approval for the trip, including the provision of
emergency contact information, was not provided, Fech wrote.

“These established procedures allow for the safety of all
students, and so, with that in mind, the trip was not approved,”
Fech wrote.

When Karl Wenckebach Sr. asked the school why his son was
allowed to compete in sectionals, he said the school did not have
an answer.

“I think that it’s a shame that the school would let the kids
participate in something and take it away from them. It’s hard
enough to get your kids interested in school and to take away what
they achieved — it’s like a slap in the face,” Wenckebach Sr.
said.

Grayslake North Principal Al Fleming declined to comment.

Nearby Vernon Hills and Zion-Benton High Schools were planning
on sending their anglers to Carlyle Lake for the finals.

Zion planned to take six students, said head bass fishing coach
Brad Rubin.

Two Vernon Hills students qualified for states. Like Zion, bass
fishing coach Jerry Miceli said the parents and school board were
very supportive.

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