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Thumbs up to Mattoon’s John Wurtsbaught for snagging an 11.71-pound largemouth bass during the Don Sanders/Bill Harkins Four Man tournament at Crab Orchard Lake last weekend. The fish was the largest ever weighed in during the 51-year history of the tournament. And, research is currently underway to determine if it is a lake record. The timing of Wurtsbaught’s catch couldn’t be better. Interest has been lagging in recent years for the three major tournaments held at Crab Orchard, all of which support local events or charities. The Sanders/Harkins tournament donates proceeds to the Williamson County Shrine Club, the Boy Scout tournament to the Boy Scouts of America and the Midwest Bass Classic is a fund raiser for the Southern Illinois Celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Days. The massive bass is a reminder of Crab Orchard’s excellent fishery. Hopefully, that reminder will rekindle interest in the local tournaments.

Thumbs down to the ongoing dispute between the City of Murphysboro, residents of the city and the Union Pacific Railroad. The dispute is over land that is considered property of the railroad that has been used as streets by the city or maintained as yards by Murphysboro residents. At one point, the railroad offered landowners a lease for a monthly fee. The latest offer revoked the fee, but allowed the railroad to reclaim the property with 30 days notice. In the lawsuit filed by Ed Heller of Reed, Heller, Mansfield and Gross, acting in his capacity as Murphysboro City Attorney, he says for more than 15 years, 23rd Street has been in use by the public as a public street. Additionally, the street was solely maintained by the city using motor fuel tax funds.

Thumbs up to this weekend’s River-to-River Relay. The 31st running of one of Southern Illinois’ signature events is Saturday. The event draws runners from all over the country — 18 states will be represented. It also showcases the beautiful scenery and backroads of Southern Illinois. The race, which has 1,200 participants, is an economic boom to small towns along the race course, from Cobden and Goreville to Golconda. And, there is just someone unique about the idea of running from the Mississippi to the Ohio river.

Thumbs up to the Decatur Correctional Center’s reunification program. As detailed in a story earlier this week, the program allows incarcerated parents to maintain a close relationship with their children. Olivia Weeks of West Frankfort credited the program with allowing her to maintain a relationship with her mother, Tabitha, and motivated her to become an outstanding student. Her hard work, coupled with the program, paid off handsomely as Olivia has been accepted at Harvard University.

Thumbs up to the quick work done by Illinois Conservation Police in arresting and charging two juveniles in the killing of five white pelicans at Newton Lake. The IDNR issued a plea to the public for assistance in solving the case. The pleas were heeded as arrests were made and charges were filed in less than a week.

Thumbs up to Hailey Chubb of Gallatin County and Darius Beane of Carbondale, The Southern Illinoisan’s girls and boys basketball players of the year. Chubb scored more than 3,000 points in her career, one of just 10 in the history of girls basketball in Illinois. In the meantime, Beane, a four-year starter, scored more than 1,600 points in a Terriers’ uniform. Beane is already committed to play at Southern Illinois University Carbondale next year. Chubb’s college plans are undecided.

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