MOLINE -- Once word broke on Saturday evening the Moline bass fishing team won the IHSA state title, the question started flowing.|
This is a joke, right?
Not even close.
"For us," Moline junior Cameron Verbeke said, "it's a really big deal."
The state title should be treated that way.
No other local team had accomplished what the Maroons did on Saturday at Carlyle Lake, winning their first-ever bass fishing state championship. Verbeke and senior teammate Matt Blair secured history by outlasting 66 other teams for Moline's 11th team state championship in school history.
"You hear it's not really a type of sport," Verbeke said on Sunday during a welcome-home ceremony at Wharton Field House. "But it comes down to how many people can go out there and fish hard for eight hours. It actually wears you down."
This trophy certainly was earned, becoming the first school north of Interstate 80 to win it.
"This is a big, big sport in the state of Illinois," Moline coach Tim Albrecht said. "When you go around Chicago and start heading into the southern part of the state, those people live for this. ... For our kids to accomplish something like this, it's pretty special."
Throw away the perceptions about bass fishing. A state title -- no matter the sport or activity -- is a state title.
From what this team did to earn it, that deserves some props.
Verbeke and Blair caught 26 pounds, 8 ounces of fish during the two-day competition on Lake Carlyle, located 40 miles east of St. Louis. The haul was nearly three pounds more than state runner-up Pinckneyville. Moline was one of five teams to catch the maximum amount of fish both days.
A lucky few days? No, this was a culmination of a grueling process.
"We put a lot of hours into casting, practicing and (being) out on the water," Blair said. "Just knowing how to set a hook and working a big fish."
Preparing for the moment took time, with Verbeke saying the Maroons can spend upwards of 20 hours a week on the water. When they reached the state meet, adjusting to the surroundings and finding the right bait combination to patience as well.
All the diligence was reward with history.
No other Quad-Cities team has ever won a bass fishing state title.
Combine this finish with a state runner-up result in 2010, Moline becomes the first school with two bass fishing trophies since the IHSA introduced it six years ago.
"I want to show people that this is the real deal," Verbeke said. "Anyone can do it and it's fun."
Keep in mind the 24-member team treats this like any other sport would.
"Our kids prepare really well," Albrecht said. "This isn't something that just happens. This is something you work toward. A lot of hard work and a lot of preparation."
As the team and community celebrated the achievement, Albrecht was pointed toward the Wharton Field House rafters where 10 team state championship banners dangle. The 11th banner -- and probably the most unexpected one -- will be up there shortly.
The title will get its just due.
"It will be up there forever," Albrecht said. "That's special."
And it's no joke, either.
Contact prep sports reporter Daniel Makarewicz at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @danmak57.