While varsity competition takes the season off, other youth sports come to the fore during the summer months, and a few local teams have taken their game to the highest levels.
Whatcom County PONY baseball goes to nationals
In July, the Bellingham Baysox, a youth baseball team that plays in the PONY 13U league, won the regional tournament in Lacey, Washington, earning a trip to Fullerton, California, for the Western Zone National Pony League Tournament July 18-21.
The team of 13-year-olds includes Blaine middle-schooler Chase Abshere, who went 10-20 in the regional tournament to help propel his team to nationals.
At the Western Zone National tournament, the Baysox fell to southern California’s Mission Viejo 10–0, then lost to Los Alamitos 5–0 to end their tournament run. Despite the early exit, the chance to represent Washington in a national tournament was exciting for players, coaches and parents.
“We are pretty excited to head to California,” said Angela Abshere, Chase’s mother, before the tournament.
Local pistol shooting team earns second in the nation
A team of five young marksmen from Whatcom County made it all the way to Illinois for the Scholastic Pistol Program Junior/Senior National Championship, where they earned the second-place trophy.
The Scholastic Pistol Program (SPP) is a national program that allows youth shooters between the age of 12 and 20 to practice safe, responsible handling of firearms and to compete at a national level against other boys and girls in a common sport. The SPP Junior/Senior National Championship was held in Sparta, Illinois July 14 through 19. It was the largest the local team has ever competed in, with 328 kids and 37 teams representing 15 states.
In each competition there are four courses with five different sized steel plates, arranged according to a specific distances
and configurations. Competitors shoot each course five times, then discard the slowest run. If a competitor misses a target, they keep shooting until they hit it. Team scores are based on combined times from all team members, and fastest four-person team wins. Fast and accurate is the name of the game.
Five competitors from the Custer Sportsmen’s Club make up the Whatcom County team, called Team Gotta. Blaine Middle School students Jake Overstreet and Zane Coffey are on the team, alongside high school students from Bellingham and Sedro-Woolley.
Team Gotta’s second–place finish earned them a purse of $5,250. The money went to the team endowment fund to cover the cost of participation. Jordan Castro, 17, from Squalicum High School, had the fastest individual time and even broke the national course record with a time of 39.31 seconds.
“He’s a pretty balanced shooter, and he brings a seriousness to the sport similar to a varsity football player,” said head coach Robin Taylor. Taylor added that Castro’s father, Tony Castro, is a skilled shooter whose guidance and coaching has helped Jordan reach such a high level in the sport.
Adam Thomas, an 18-year-old from Sedro-Woolley, placed second overall with a time of 41.38 seconds, and 16-year-old Dan Harris III from Bellingham placed fifth with a time of 46.34 seconds.
Taylor said the team practices once a week year-round, and training varies based on upcoming competitions. An “alphabet soup” of different events keeps the team traveling around the country, Taylor said. Team Gotta has competed in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Utah, Georgia and Illinois, and plans to visit Texas in February.
Of all the events the team has attended, the SPP Junior/Senior National Championship was by far the largest.
“It was our debut at the event, and to come away with the second-place trophy, we’re feeling pretty good about our performance,” Taylor said.