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Three CHS Seniors Advancing to Regionals in UIL Academics Competition


Cleburne High School has three students advancing to the UIL Academics 5A-Region II contest, April 16-17, following top wins in District competition.

                The academic athletes, all seniors, include Jonathan Martinez, District Champion in Social Studies, Ally Benson who was the silver medalist in Literacy Criticism and Chase Horn, who received the silver medal in Lincoln Douglas Debate. Taylor Bowers serves as the UIL Literary Criticism Coach and Matt Moulden coaches the Debate competitors.

                In team competition, Cleburne placed second in Social Studies and Accounting, qualifying as Regional alternates. Social Studies team members include Martinez, Ryan Head, Logan Thorne and Ivy Grace Smith. They are coached by social studies teacher Chris Poss, who is also the high school’s UIL Academics coordinator.

                Making up the Accounting team, coached by business teacher Kelly Perez, are Laramie Stehling, Pamela Moreno Hernandez, Luis Torres, Harley Stehling, Colton Kimbell and Elsy Rodriguez. In individual scoring, Laramie Stehling placed fifth.

                Juniors Jase Bailey and Cooper Madison each finished in the top ten in UIL Computer Science at the two-day District contest, held March 25-26 involving both in-person and virtual competitions. Bailey also placed fifth in the third round of competition at a UIL Computer Science invitational meet involving students across north Texas. Momentum in fielding UIL Academics participants in the event has been fueled at CHS with the addition of AP Computer Science to the course offerings.

                “Our kids showed a lot of ability and promise this year,” Poss said. “COVID knocked out the 2020 season, and we have had to build back some momentum, in the face of fewer invitational meets this year, including those conducted virtually. We are very excited to be taking students on to Regional competition.”

                Martinez first competed in UIL Academics as a sophomore and has remained a participant in the social studies event. He is excited to be a District Champion and advancing to the next level in his final year as a UIL competitor.

                “Social studies has always intrigued me,” he said. “I like learning the history of people and their cultures. This was the first time for me to compete in the District contest. My sophomore year I got sick on the day of the contest, and last year was canceled due to COVID. I wasn’t sure what to expect at District, so coming out in first place was a pleasant surprise. As a team, we were five points from first place.”

                “Participating in UIL Academics has been a great experience,” Martinez said. “I’ve made some friendships, and it’s helped me a lot in knowing how to study and be organized. It’s also helped my skills in writing essays.”

                Benson has competed in UIL since her freshman year in a variety of events, from computer science, number sense and calculator applications to literary criticism. She has also been a four-year award winner in the annual Visual Arts Scholastic Event, viewed by many as the equivalent of UIL competition for high school artists.   

                “I feel literary criticism has been my strongest event—and my favorite,” Benson said. “I like literature, and like being engaged in the analysis of a book and its contents. It’s really fun.”

                Benson finished fifth in District in “lit crit” as a sophomore and was a bronze medalist in the last invitational meet before the 2020 District contest—that never took place.

                “I was 50/50 in how I would do this year,” Benson said. “I thought maybe I’d finish fifth. I was surprised—and happy—to learn I placed second and was going to advance as a Regional qualifier. I plan to spend more time reading and reviewing.”

                “UIL has made me better at English,” she said. “Quite often I’m familiar with the topics the teacher introduces because of my involvement in literary criticism. I’ve gotten pretty good at analyzing literature—even how it relates to art.”

                Horn is a relative newcomer to UIL, inspired to compete this year after taking debate as a junior. This year’s Lincoln Douglas topic is “when in conflict, digital privacy ought to be valued over public security.”

                “I started in debate last year because I needed one more class on my schedule,” Horn said. “It sounded fun. I went to a Lincoln Douglas practice tournament, which gave me confidence in my skills. I guess you could say ‘better late than never,’ when it comes who how things went for me at the District contest.”

                “Our event was virtual, so for me, that made it a little less nerve wracking,” Horn said. “I take really good notes during rounds and I’ve seen my competitors in action, so I know what to expect from them. I plan to re-work my case in preparing for Regionals.”

                Cleburne got off to a solid start in UIL competition this spring, with the One Act Play team winning at District with their performance of scenes from “Peter Pan,” in which senior Antares Ewell received the Best Actress Award. The production advanced to the Bi-District contest and was selected as the alternate to Regionals. Seniors Julie Hall, as Peter Pan and Takara Bailey, as Mrs. Darling/Captain Hook, received All-Star Cast recognitions at both the District and Bi-District contests.