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Shot Callers

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Local teens compete in APA Junior Championships

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    Alex Segovia, Brett Vassar, Larissa Almendarez and Holly Stanek competed at APA Junior Championships in St Louis. The Vindicator | Russell Payne
  • Article Image Alt Text
    The APA Junior Pool League members meet up on the third Saturday of each month at the Oaks Club of Dayton. The Vindicator | Russell Payne

Each month at The Oaks Club of Dayton, kids from all over Southeast Texas come out and have fun and compete against other young pool enthusiasts in the APA Junior Pool League.

Before you overreact to the thought of kids in a bar, owner Sarah Riggs opens the doors to the kids each month. She provides a family-friendly environment for them to compete every third Saturday morning, even providing food for the competitors.

Junior competitors compete in nine-ball, and league representative Robbie Vassar and her husband Dean oversee the event each month and strive to offer everyone a friendly fi and positive place to enjoy the game.

The local league competes under the umbrella of the APA Pool League of Southeast Texas, which league operator Andrus Granger organizes.

“Working with the kids is a lot of fun. It’s good to see them grow and get better every time they play. Honestly, it helps them in life skills and geometry; you’re learning your physics, so it’s not just a game, it’s a game they learn in,” said Robbie Vassar.

Recently four league members made the trip to St. Louis for the APA Junior Championships after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.

Usually, two participants from the league attend the annual tournament; however, this year, four local competitors attended following the pandemic cancellation.

Representing the league were Larissa Almendarez, Brett Vassar, Alex Segovia and Holly Stanek, who all qualified.

Almendarez, 16, is from Spring, TX, and travels to Dayton each month and takes part in league play, and is the highest ranked player locally at a skill level of 6.

“She is the best in the area,” said Dean Vassar.

During nationals, she took fifth place honors out of 32 competitors and was excited about the experience.

“I think I did very good. I think I could have done better in some parts, but I think I did pretty good,” she said.

The Vassar’s grandson Brett, 14, a Hardin boy, competes as a skill level 3 and came in an impressive 17th place out of 96 competitors, bringing home a sportsmanship award.

“I thought it was awesome. I did really good besides the fact I accidentally hit the wrong ball,” he said with a chuckle.

He encourages other kids to try pool, come out, make good friends, and have a great time.

“It’s a really good game and a really good challenge,” he said.

Segovia, 11, from Baytown, joined them, competing with the skill level 4 competitors in St. Louis.

Segovia believes there was a noticeable difference in competing on the national stage but had a great time competing in the game his entire family enjoys.

“It’s fun, and my parents got me into it, and it’s been a family thing for a long time,” said Segovia.

Finally, Stanek, 14, a Dayton native, competed at a level 3 while in St Louis, where she also came home with a sportsmanship award.

Stanek feels like the game of pool can be a great way to cope with things in life and that it helped her a great deal.

“I just found it as a really good coping mechanism, and I just got into it,” said Stanek.

She said that pool has led to her making friends and having a great time and that anyone interested in the game can be as good as the time they put into playing.

That was a sentiment echoed by Dean Vassar, who believes the game is to be loved and that it teaches kids to become great sports.

“We try to teach these kids that it’s all about the love of the game,” he continued, “It’s about playing the table and not the player.”

The APA pays for each child and their family’s hotel that qualifies for the junior championship tournament. Still, some funds are raised for travel expenses along the way; some players hold fundraisers, auctions, or by finding sponsors.

Anyone interested in participating in the local group is invited to join them on the third Saturday of each month at 5999 HWY 146 South in Dayton. For more information, call Robbie Vassar at 936-641-2870 or email; for more information on the APA Pool League of Southeast Texas, call Andrus Granger at 409-466-5812 or visit their website at