UIL Journalism team wins first place in district, contributes to 2nd place sweepstakes for Aztecs

Aztec yearbook editor is only student in SISD to advance to state


Photo by Vanessa Martinez

Senior Gael Araiza poses with his certificate of participation in the UIL State meet in Austin, Texas at the UT Austin campus on May 5. Araiza was the only SISD student to advance to the state UIL meet. He competed in headling writing, after winning first place at the regional competition.

The subtle sound of the bells signifying the end of class and the ancient atmosphere reminded junior Brenden Malacara that Franklin High School is older than El Dorado High School. Waiting for their turn at the UIL District competition, all the journalism teams cramped into the small cafeteria until it started at 10 a.m. The faint tension lingered knowing they would go up against other 5A division schools.

Waking up early and meeting at 8 a.m on March 26, a Saturday morning, was worthwhile since Malacara and seniors Sebastian Rodriguez, Leeann Mclemore, Keidy Palma, Paola Duran, Silvia Martinez, Andreana Acuña, and Gael Araiza, who represented the UIL Journalism Aztec team received a first place team in the 5A district. Five of them, including Acuña, Araiza, Palma, Martinez, and Malacara advanced to regionals in multiple journalism categories. The total team score was 122 points, making the team win first place in the 5A division.

Before the day of the competition, the students practiced with packets and a time limit to imitate how the competition would go after school to help them prepare for the day. Although it was Malacara’s first time participating in a UIL competition, he placed second in copy editing behind Araiza.

“The practice at school definitely helped pace me, for the ones participating in the copy editing contest you would focus on the first two pages of a packet and if you had time, you could do some of the work on the third page,” Malacara said.

Despite placing first in headline writing at districts, Acuña was not available on the day of regionals since she had to attend a pageant that was scheduled for the same day as the regional contest. Rodriguez earned fourth place in the competition and was able to move up, advancing to regional competition in Lubbock.

“I was actually super taken back with the results at districts since it is the only competition I placed in so I was grateful for that recognition,” Acuña said. “I felt really disappointed that I had such a great opportunity at my hands and in a sense I felt like I was letting my team down.”

The Aztecs head to Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas on April 22. Palma felt anxious because, at that place, all the best journalist writers gathered there. However, she knew that all she could do for the team was to go in there and try her best.

“And then there was a time during the competition where my printer stopped working which almost got me disqualified,” Palma said. “So I struggled with making sure everything worked and coming up with an idea for my story because I think the prompt was very tailored to the community and since I’m not part of that community it was hard for me.”

Aside from the tension and stress that came from the competition, the Aztecs also enjoyed their time at Lubbock. After driving from morning to the mid afternoon, they visited the thrift store next to the hotel, walked around the Texas Tech campus and had deep conversations about life.

“It was an enlightening trip, being able to prove to yourself that you’re capable of doing more and having fun being around the people you love,” Martinez said. “We were all having such a good time, there was such good vibes, we were just talking, and even the new kids that we didn’t know, we were all vibing.”

Sitting on the bus, Araiza heard the shout of someone about the results. He had placed first for headline writing, allowing him to be the only one to advance to state. Teachers Vanessa Martinez, the yearbook advisor, and Daniel Nicholas, social studies teacher, accompanied Araiza to the UIL State competition on May 6 at the University of Texas at Austin.

“It felt so unreal and though I didn’t place, the experience was so life-changing,” Araiza said. “Being able to see college life up close, even in that small capacity, really opened my eyes. I loved to see the independence and liberty that comes with life, even if it’s viewing from afar.”

Strategically picking the individuals who would compete for the team, Mrs. Martinez was thrilled with how well they did after coming back in person from COVID. This was the second time in our history when someone advanced to state.

“I was a little uncertain about how much we would be able to accomplish, but at the same time I knew that our team was really strong,” Martinez said. “The fact that we had so many people get medals and that we won a team reward, that’s never happened before.”


Aztecs UIL District Results:

Overall, the school overall earned the Second Place Sweepstakes Trophy for 2-5A schools. Nine students qualified to move on to the regional meet in Lubbock, Texas, and seventeen scholars earned medals.


Journalism Team: First Place Team at district 2-5A with a collective score of 122 points.

Andy Acuña – 1st place in Headline Writing – region qualifier

Gael Araiza – 3rd place in Headline Writing, 1st place in Copy Editing – region qualifier

Keidy Palma – 1st place in Feature Writing, 3rd place in Editorial Writing – region qualifier

Silvia Martinez – 1st place in Editorial Writing, 2nd place in Feature Writing – region qualifier

Brenden Malacara – 2nd place in Copy Editing – region qualifier

Paola Duran – 5th place in Feature Writing – alternate

Leeann Mclemore – 6th place in Copy Editing – alternate

Sebastian Rodriguez – 4th place in Headline Writing – alternate


Literary Criticism Team: Second Place Team at district 2-5A with a collective score of 123 points.

Lillian Pszonowsky – 2nd place – region qualifier

Ana Becerra – 8th place

Yadel Canales – 13th place

Sydney Balkman – 16th place


Spelling and Vocabulary: Second Place Team with a team score of 60 points.

Sebastian Palomares – 4th place – alternate

Idali Ramirez – 5th place – alternate

Mark Tomlinson – 8th place

Aneesa Gonzalez – 9th place


Social Studies: Second Place Team with a team score of 89 points.

Julius Wurz – 4th place – alternate

Sebastian Rodriguez – 5th place – alternate

Olivia Nares – 8th place

Danna Carrillo – 18th place


Ready Writing:

Mayeli Robles – 1st place – region qualifier

Abraham Cabada – 2nd place – region qualifier


Computer Applications:

Aleida Holguin – 3rd place – region qualifier

David Laguna – 4th place – alternate


One-Act Play:

4th place – alternate


Persuasive Speaking:

Paola Duran – 6th place – alternate


Aztecs UIL Regionals Results:

Gael Araiza earned first place in headline writing

Abraham Cabada – EDHS – Ready Writing – 4th place

Gael Araiza – EDHS – Copy Editing – 4th place

Keidy Palma – EDHS – Feature Writing – 4th place


Aztecs UIL State Results:

Gael Araiza placed in the Top 12 for Headline Writing