Countdown to 10-Year: UIL

In eight days, I will be attending my 10 Year Class Reunion. In these days, I will take the opportunity to look back on ten of my favorite elements of high school (in no particular order of importance)…

#8 – UIL

When I moved to Nashville, I received a harsh reality. UIL is a Texas-only thing. This was something I did not know, and I now feel compelled to attempt to explain what, exactly, UIL is.

Directly from the UIL web-site:

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 1909 the UIL has grown into the largest inter-school organization of its kind in the world. […] The purpose of the UIL is to organize and properly supervise contests that assist in preparing students for citizenship. It aims to provide healthy, character building, educational activities carried out under rules providing for good sportsmanship and fair play for all participants. (link)

So, long story short, UIL over sees the competitions (both athletic and academic) between public schools in Texas, and it decides what school districts are in what district/region/area, etc.  When you participate in UIL, you’re participating in some event overseen by the organization.

My collection of medals from UIL events
My collection of medals from UIL events

I participated in UIL academics starting in third grade with “Ready Writing.” I competed writing papers based on a given prompt in a given amount of time through eighth grade.

In high school, I was introduced to UIL Journalism. For all four years of high school, I competed in News Writing, Feature Writing and Headline Writing.

My freshman year was, without a doubt, my most successful year. Beginners luck, perhaps. Or perhaps it was because it was new and I just gave it more time and effort perfecting the skills needed to compete at the top level. I won third place in both Headline Writing and News Writing at the District Level. I took fourth in Feature Writing that same year, and advanced to Regionals as an alternate in that competition.

That was the last year that my district participated in Regional competition in Kingsville, Texas. A five hour drive by car… a seven hour drive by school bus. We all piled onto the bus — atleast two to a seat, plus luggage in the Spring Texas heat. By the end of that drive, I’m not sure ANYONE was getting along with one another anymore.

However, at the end of that long bus ride laid some of my best memories of my freshman year.

Three girls in one King-size bed. Up late watching Nick-at-Nite (back when it was really good) and “Blue Lagoon.” Fatigue giving way to dumb jokes, “Lee King Bucket” and “Bessie the Heifer” for my two friends who will get that. A hambuger and fries for breakfast. And competition on the Texas A&M University – Kingsville campus.

I took fourth place in News Writing this time… once again an alternate for the next level of competition: State. Headline Writing was the last competition of the Journalism contests that day. A friend who competed in Editorial Writing had advanced to State already, and she claimed she wouldn’t go if I wasn’t going as well.

Time came for the announcement and we went in search for the rankings. I couldn’t find them in the area we thought they would be…

You know those moments in time in which everything just seems to go into slow motion? That is how it was, when I heard my name called down the hall and I turned to see my friend coming straight at me with #1 held up on her hand. I remember screaming and suddenly being tackled in big bear hugs… not sure if I should cry or dance around. First place at Regional Level. I was going to STATE!!!!

A few weeks later, I was climbing into the backseat of my sponsor’s car, heading to Austin, Texas. The school put us up in a very (VERY!) nice hotel in downtown Austin and we had a fantastic dinner the night before competition.

3A Second Place State Medal
3A Second Place State Medal

The next day, I found myself right in the middle of the University of Texas campus, and I have to say: it is a beautiful campus! I ended up spending the whole day on campus due to the timing of my competition. But at the end of the day, I walked away holding the second place, silver medal for all of 3A schools in Headline Writing.

I would never again make it to State competition in my high school career. I made it to Regionals again twice — my sophomore and my senior year. My Sophomore year, I placed fifth in news writing, failing to advance. Then, in a cruel twist of fate, Regional competition in 1999 was the same day as my Senior Prom. Luckily it was on the Blinn Campus in Brenham, Texas. An easy hour and a half drive from home, and the school approved my driving myself to the competition. However, my mind was not on the competition at hand, and I failed to place at all.

I still have my medals on display in my office to remind myself of the things I can succeed in doing if I just put my mind to it. Successes that are now over 10 years old till drive me forward.

I, personally, think other states could learn a lot from the University Interscholastic League. The competitions it sponsors challenge students, offering both the sweet taste of success and the bitter pill of failure. It offers the chance to interact with students from all areas of the state and all walks of life while also giving many a chance to see areas of the state they’d never see otherwise (like I’d have never gone to Kingsville!).

UIL definitely offered to me many, many wonderful memories and stands as one of my favorite things about my high school career.