Journalism student claims state championship


photo or infographic by Emily Meachen

STATE CHAMP. WIth their Leaguetown Press shirts on, juniors Stephanie Keele, Summer Rains and Heather Jackson take a picture at Cy Woods High School, a hub for the state academic UIL meet. Jackson won the 6A state championship in news writing. Leaguetown is the fictional high school that serves as the setting for all UIL journalism stories.

Sitting in a school cafeteria with more than enough snacks and a large cooler full of any drink that she could want. Looking through the AP style book to try and remember important rules before she goes in.  Then she hears it, the 15 minute call that means it’s time to head to the testing room. As she walks up the stairs her heart is pounding, and like a wet sponge, she is trying to hold onto everything that she has learned over the years. When she gets to the room, the pressure is real, but she’s confident in herself and is ready to step up to the challenge that is the UIL State Competition. 

On Saturday, May 1, junior Heather Jackson competed in UIL journalism News Writing at the state level and placed first. 

“The day was amazing,” Jackson said. “I kept waking up before my alarm because I was so excited. My friends, Summer and Stephanie, didn’t have to come but they were so amazing that they rode with Ms. Meachen and I to the competition and even hung out with me all day after I finished. We didn’t go to Austin like we normally would have because of COVID-19, so we had smaller hub sites instead, which meant we weren’t going to get the full traveling experience. To make up for it, my friends and I had a sleepover to make it more fun.”

This year was very different compared to past UIL competitions, but it was still a great experience for both Jackson and her journalism teacher, Emily Meachen.

“To make it to state is almost impossible,” Meachen said. “When a writer competes at region the whole room is full of great writers. I was just so excited for Heather to make it to state. I am super bummed that she did not get the whole state experience of a room full of new writers on the UT campus, but I am just glad UIL worked to make sure kids could compete.”

This year was the first year that the Wildkats competed against 6A schools, so it is a big accomplishment that Jackson placed at district, regionals and state. She has worked very hard since her first day in the journalism program and deserves her accomplishments. 

“I have practiced a lot the past two years by participating in invitational meets that schools have held,” Jackson said. “I get better every time I write because I always learn something new when I get my story back. I was able to improve my writing by taking the comments of the judges into consideration every time I competed and applied what I learned at the next invitational.”

Due to there being several hub testing sites over the state this year instead of being at one location, it took the whole weekend to go over the papers which is not the norm for UIL meets.

“Not knowing the results right away was absolutely awful,” Jackson said. “I started a countdown when there were still 37 hours before the placements were going to be released. I was so stressed out and jittery for two days, and when I got the results, I felt like I could finally give my brain a much needed rest.”

Jackson’s hard work and determination got her to this place today and will continue to help her go further in her journalism career.

“I gave up so many Saturdays and so much time for invitationals and workshops to better myself and my abilities,” Jackson said. “It did not come naturally, but with a lot of time and hard work, it paid off in ways I never thought possible.”

After the success of this year, Meachen is excited for what the next year of competition holds for her journalism students. 

“Placing at state is so hard,” Meachen. “To place first is unbelievable. I know Heather is a great writer, but all 12 of the 6a writers were great.  Heather is a key member of an amazing media staff I am lucky to advise. I am excited that she and most of the UIL team are juniors so I still have another year to coach them to hopefully another district championship.”

The anticipation to get to learn whether or not Jackson placed at state was felt by both her and her friends and teacher. Everyone was excited for her when they found out and the celebrations went on for a week. 

“I found out while I was at tennis practice because Meachen called me as soon as she got the results. When she told me I got first I was so happy and surprised and I couldn’t keep myself from crying. I was just so proud of myself and felt very fulfilled. All of my tennis friends were so happy for me and I got so many texts from other friends that were super heartwarming. I felt very at peace with myself and my abilities.”