But placing at the regional level is an even loftier goal – and getting in the top three brings students scholarship eligibility, a trip to the University of Texas in Austin, and narrows the competition down to the best that 2A classification can offer.
Seventeen students – 15 competitors and two alternates – from Skidmore-Tynan Independent School District headed to San Marcos on April 21 to seek that state berth. Only one would advance, but the experience will carry on to next year and motivate students to keep studying.
“I want to make it to that level again,” sophomore debater Haley Scott said. “Regionals was a lot more competitive. The overnight trip was fun, and overall it was much better practice for next year.”
University Inter-scholastic League, or UIL, provides a unique opportunity for Texas students, allowing them to compete in a variety of academic media much the same as sports teams do.
“I like the competition,” senior Sal Soto said, who advanced in three events. “I will remember the experience, and it gives a sense of accomplishment like no other.”
Skidmore-Tynan took the district championship this year, and competed at regionals in mathematics, number sense, calculator applications, computer applications, news writing, social studies, current issues and events, Lincoln-Douglas debate, ready writing, poetry, prose and both informative and persuasive speaking. Most students competed in more than one event.
“It makes me feel important [to compete in so many events],” senior Zach Guerra said. He does all three maths, computer applications and writing, and during invitational meets he is competitive in even more contests that he cannot do at the same time as those listed above at district. “If I have to pick a favorite, it would be number sense because I’ve done it the longest.”
Students pick the events they wish to compete in usually by an interest in the subject matter, or coaches will ask students to try a contest based on a student’s performance in class.
“I picked social studies and current events, because I had a greater understanding of the subject than the others, before I started,” senior John Scott said. “And the topics interest me.”
“My mother made me [at first],” senior and social studies team member Chance Schirmer said, “but it turned out to be very fulfilling. Going to competitions with friends is fun.”
UIL makes a great addition to college and scholarship applications, as well as to student resumes; by participating in the state meet, students become eligible for the Texas Interscholastic League Foundation scholarships. In an average year, TILF awards more than $1 million in scholarships to more than 600 students, according to the UIL website.
“UIL will help me later in life,” Guerra said, “because a lot of things are timed – like deadlines – and these contests are timed and help teach you to pace yourself.”
Amber Hughlett will compete in Ready Writing on the UT campus on Monday, May 21, after finishing third at regionals.
“I plan to compete to the best of my ability,” Hughlett said. “Just knowing that I can reach this level lets me know that my goals are achievable.”
Despite only one student advancing to state, the experience at regionals was one to remember.
“The best part of regionals was feeling the accomplishment of making it that far,” senior and prose interpretation speaker Kayla Sands said, “and being able to cheer my other classmates on.”
Although the academic team’s makeup – mostly seniors – will change following graduation, underclassmen are ready to step up. Coaches are already looking to prepare for a new season and new study topics, and students look forward to the challenge of competition. Cross-examination debaters, whose district and state level competitions occur prior to the rest of the events, have already begun planning and researching their transportation-related topic in order to once again get to Austin.
“Debate is hard work, and we want to get a jump start,” freshman CX debater and editorial writer Rebekah Colle said. “Next year, I want to make it to the next level.”
S-T students are proud of their successes this year and want to continue setting challenging goals.
“At regionals, there were a lot of people who were more experienced,” sophomore informative speaker Fred Guajardo said. “As a rookie, I think I did OK. I learned how to organize a lot better within a specific time period. I am motivated by this year, because if I can advance to regionals next year, I will earn my letterman.”