Sabine's top scholars claim state UIL title

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One year ago, Sabine High School had a healthy lead in the UIL Academic State Championship.

Not healthy enough, it turned out: on the final day of state-level contests, Holliday High School’s last-minute gains helped its score reach and surpass the Cardinals’ tally, leaving the local district in second place.

All that said, it was the first time Sabine had been anywhere near the top.

As of Tuesday, second time’s the charm: heading into the last UIL matches of 2017-2018 again in first place, the school’s scores held out this year. It was another close finish, Supt. Stacey Bryce says, but Sabine ends the season with the 2018 UIL Academic State Championship for District 3A.

Years back, “We didn’t have a very strong presence even in district UIL competition,” he admitted. However, “We saw the benefit for the kids if they were involved in the UIL Academics competition.

“So we started putting emphasis on it. We started recruiting our coaches to work with the kids.”

It’s kind of crazy, according to Sabine High School UIL Coordinator April Washburn: she can remember a decade ago when the district was only fielding one UIL Academics competitor. Washburn was tapped to take the reins of the program, which grew from one participate to 30.

“Now we’re up to 120,” she said. “Now we’re winning a state championship.”

Last year’s second place finish was a thrill as well, Washburn added, but it’s nothing compared to bringing the title home to Liberty City.

“We were ecstatic,” she said, with 13 coaches supervising a slew of competition categories from Math & Science to Journalism events, One Act Play, Persuasive Speaking, Poetry and more. “It’s really a lot of events for just 13 people,” crediting the district’s leadership with adding a 30-minute activity period four years back that’s provided more in-school practice for student competitors.

“Trying to get these kids after school or before school was almost impossible. That was a big boost.”

Another new class dedicated to Math/Science skills followed, and success further inspired students to put in extra time.

“There’s very few that don’t put in after-hours,” Washburn said. “And that’s not including the Saturdays that you put in with meets.”

The Math/Science students pulled most of the weight this year, she added, with the Journalism department’s participants adding the next boost to the overall score. Sabine ends 2017-2018 academic competitions with 126 points to Holliday’s 112.

In addition to students’ individual awards, with a slate of new state champions joining the school’s honor wall, Sabine High School netted six state championships to reach the overall UIL Academics title. (Find a complete list, above).

“It was a nail-biter trying to wait and see,” Washburn said, with public speaking – one of Holliday’s strengths – once again closing the season: “It all depended on that. Last year they came back and beat us in speaking events. This year it came down to the wire.”

Each year’s gains primarily belong to the students and coaches, Bryce said, but he’s grateful for encouragement from parents and others in the district.

“Administration, school board and all, it was great support of the UIL Academic Program,” he said, all the way back to Summer 2017: “Before the school year started, we talked about what we’d need to do to increase, to improve more. It’s definitely paid off.”

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