Granbury High School students showed off their scholarly abilities, placing second at Joshua High School’s UIL Academic Invitational Meet Saturday, Jan. 20.
The University Interscholastic League was created by The University of Texas at Austin to provide leadership and guidance to public school debate and athletic teachers. Since 1910, the UIL has grown into the largest interschool organization of its kind in the world, according to uiltexas.org.
“UIL, of course, governs sports and fine arts, and they have multiple competitions,” Cindy Leatherman, GHS UIL academics coordinator and social studies coach said. “UIL also created the field of academics, so it’s separated into different types of contests.”
Sixty-one GHS students competed as both teams and individuals in a variety of different academic events during the invitational meet including: accounting, calculator, computer applications, computer science, copy editing, current events, journalism, literary criticism, mathematics, number sense, ready writing, science, spelling and vocabulary, and social studies.
The following students placed in their events:
All students did well in their categories, resulting in Granbury High School placing second overall behind 6A Highland Park High School.
“When we compete, each placement gets a certain amount of points,” Tammy Bodine, UIL co-coordinator and accounting coach said. “In social studies, we had a first and a fifth and they got points there, and then as a team, if you're a first-place team or second-place team, you get points. Each school accumulates points in all the different events that they compete in, and so after all the events had been held, and we scored it all, Granbury scored the second highest points behind Highland Park.”
Although, Bodine said, GHS almost didn’t place in second due to an accidental scoring issue.
“I doublecheck everything and I looked, and they had inadvertently put (Leatherman’s) social studies points in Grandview instead of Granbury,” she said. “I'm sure they would have caught it, but when those points moved over, we edged out Mansfield for second place, so it felt really good.”
Leatherman added “it always feels great to beat Aledo,” as the school is a commonly-known rival of Granbury.
“Aledo has a very strong current events team and social studies, and then a few other areas too,” she said. “We have our areas where we really focus hard, so that we can compete even more, but typically, we're rivals of Aledo.”
While GHS succeeded in UIL academics, the speech and debate team coached by Shyller Byrom also fared well in the competition, with students Carmen Wright and Maddie Neal qualifying for UIL state.
“We did really well in Joshua with our speech and debate students,” Leatherman said. “We were all there together at the same competition. Sometimes the speech and debate students also compete in forensic debate, which is governed by a different organization than UIL, so our debate coach is very busy.”
Bodine said Granbury normally excels in the UIL competitions — especially district — but its success boils down to the students’ determination and having the right coaches who work hard to ensure their students perform well.
“We have a lot of coaches who specialize in their events because obviously I could not coach science; I'm a social studies teacher,” Leatherman said. “And even though I think that I could coach UIL maybe in another area if I worked really hard at it, we have a science teacher who is a great coach. We have a lot of different coaches who specialize in those particular areas, so that they can encourage the students.”
GHS UIL Academic coaches include:
As students are not able to use classroom time to practice in their respective UIL areas, many wake up early and stay after school to ensure they are prepared for the next competition.
“The science team, I think, is up to three days a week now,” Leatherman said. “Sometimes it's just when I can grab a kid during quest period, which is kind of like our homeroom. It's a bit of a struggle because they are stretched. They have work, they have church, they have other school events, but when they come, they're competitive too, and so they work hard.”
"A lot of the kids that compete in UIL compete in everything,” Bodine explained. “On my accounting team, I have a powerlifter, I have a golfer, I have five that are in band, and one has a job, so trying to get them all together is difficult. But we stay in contact and communicate. I just encourage them to come when they can, stay in contact and work on their own.”
While some students are constantly putting in the work, Bodine said she’s had to make sure they achieve some semblance of balance so they’re not overworking themselves.
“I think it says a lot for our kids because in UIL academics, our competitions are on Saturdays,” Bodine said. “A lot of our kids compete during the weekday. It takes a special kid to get up at 6 a.m. or be at school at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning — particularly when it's cold — to go and compete for us when they could be staying in bed sleeping or what have you.”
Leatherman added that with the increase in team sizes — four members to six members — GISD has started to recruit students as young as freshman to join academic UIL, which has led to an increase in student participation.
“Our numbers have grown in general, but also with the addition of adding more to compete on the district level, it has really increased our numbers,” Bodine said. “So, we have about 85 kids, but we took 61 to Joshua. On the roster, between both speech and debate and then our academics, (we have) between 80 and 85. I work in CTE and we have a volleyball coach that works there and I asked how many they take to compete. They take a little around 40, so we're taking more than some of our athletic teams — probably not football — but I think we're comparable on some of the other sports, whether it be basketball or volleyball.”
As this was an “A” invitational meet, the next step for the district is the “B” invitational meet scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 10 in Grandview, followed by the district meet Friday, April 5 at Granbury High School.
Once students advance to the state competition, they are then eligible to apply for a Texas Interscholastic League Foundation scholarship. More information can be found at tilfoundation.org/scholarships/list/.
“UIL academics has become very competitive across the state because there's so many scholarships involved," Leatherman said. "And it really, in our opinion, definitely prepares students to be successful in college.”
"I'm on year 29 (in education) and I'd say with the exception of probably three or four years, I've been in UIL academics, so I really believe in it,” Bodine said.
For more information on UIL academics, visit uiltexas.org/academics online.