4-year competitor overcomes adversity at state meet

Amanda Hare wins 3rd state medal at UIL academic competition


Larry Roskens

As they stand to the left of senior Amanda Hare, adviser Lisa Roskens, sophomore Rock Hill High School competitor Zeeya Merchant and senior Prosper High School competitor Gabriella Winans help Hare set up equipment. Due to unexpected problems with her printer’s connection, Hare switched to use Merchant’s equipment. Hare, Winans, Merchant and Roskens had a limited amount of time to get the equipment switched and working due to time restraints before the competition started.

As she moves back and forth from computer to printer in a packed room in the San Jacinto building at the University of Texas, senior Amanda Hare tries to fix technology problems with only minutes to go before the University Interscholastic League Editorial Writing state competition begins. For the first time in more than two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hare found herself back in Austin – competing for a medal.

In her four years, Hare earned UIL medals at every competition level – from invitationals to state meets.

“Covid changed state a lot in my sophomore and junior year,” Hare said. “But, my freshman and senior year experiences were pretty much the same.”

Freshman Year

As a freshman, Hare started learning journalistic writing skills and styles in the Journalism I elective course. Hare signed up for her first UIL practice and then her first academic meet because of encouragement from her UIL adviser Lisa Roskens.

Although reluctant at first, Hare won her first competition and ended the year with a second place state medal. This success would only be the beginning of a high school journey filled with competitions and accomplishments, including being named the 2022 Texas State Journalist of the Year.

“I surprised everyone by somehow winning Headline and Editorial Writing in the first meet (as a freshman),” Hare said. “I was very encouraged by this success.”

With a newfound love for journalism and UIL competitions, Hare continued to compete throughout the year – and pushed herself harder each time.

“I somehow made it to the state meet, which me and my adviser were ecstatic about,” Hare said. “I never imagined I would make it that far, but I did.”

Hare remembers one of her favorite moments of her freshman year clearly – it was just hours after her competition, when Roskens met up with her to give results.

“She came out of the judging room with a small smile and just held up two fingers,” Hare said. “I’ve never been more shocked in my life, and that’s definitely one of the greatest moments ever for me. Just the thought that I was able to do so well in my first year of journalism as a 15 year old still brings a smile to my face.”

Sophomore Year

Hare’s sophomore year competition was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Meets were conducted in a Google Meet. Coaches watched contestants as they wrote and submitted their competition pieces virtually. In the state qualifying meet, Hare placed second in both the Headline and Editorial Writing competitions, but only first place in each contest moved onward to state.

“It was my first virtual competition experience, and it just doesn’t compare to being at a meet with the whole team,” Hare said. “Because of the virtual format, I wasn’t able to qualify for state even though I placed second in two events. That was definitely the worst part of it, since I would’ve advanced at a normal meet.”

Junior Year

With the 2020-21 school year and academic UIL season arriving as the pandemic wound down, UIL competitions started up again in person with some restrictions, including the schools competing in “pods.” Pods included groups of schools that would go to different campuses in the local area for students to compete with a proctor.

“It was more in-person than the year before, but still not very fun,” Hare said. “There were only a few other schools there, so the whole building was pretty much empty. I actually had to compete in Headline Writing alone in a random science lab since I was the only headline writer at our pod. The whole experience was just super weird.”

Senior Year

As Hare wraps up her final UIL academic season, with state awards for third in Headline Writing, fourth in News Writing and seventh in Editorial Writing, she reflected on experiences she has been through in the past four years – including recurring technology issues.

“The most difficult part about UIL is definitely getting the printer to work,” Hare said. “We have to print our articles, or else we have to handwrite it – except there’s just no time in the competition to waste writing.”

An unscheduled computer update left Hare having to handwrite in her first competition of the day.

“At state this year, my printer wouldn’t work for the editorial competition because a random update was downloaded to the computer,” Hare said. “That was very scary before the competition, and I had to write my whole editorial by hand, which definitely didn’t allow me to do as good in the competition. Printers, in general, are just always stressful because they’re very prone to just stalling for no reason.”

Even with its challenges, Hare said she has also had many fun times competing at state – whether it be winning her events or in time spent outside of the competition room.

“Placing second at state my freshman year is definitely my best UIL accomplishment,” Hare said. “It’s still shocking to think about, and I’m not sure how I did it. I still remember when my teacher told me I got second before the award ceremony. I couldn’t believe it and was so ecstatic. It’s rare for a freshman to even make it to the state meet, so I’m incredibly proud to have placed.”

Hare and senior Gabriella Winans, another UIL journalism competitor, have known each other since sixth grade, but they grew closer when through journalism and newspaper classes.

“I think I have seen her change most in her leadership,” Winans said. “We really started out as freshmen in journalism and seeing the way she grew to Editor-in-Chief and the way she communicates with everyone in the class really inspires me to do the same. She’s a really helpful person, and I just love being around her, and I love having her as our head of the newspaper.”

Hare and Winans have had some unfortunate situations, but it hasn’t had any negative effects on their friendship – in fact, it has done the opposite.

“Amanda and I have had a lot of fun over the years doing UIL, but probably one of the most memorable things is having to share a twin bed when we’re competing,” Winans said. “It’s not the most ideal, but we make the most out of it, and it’s so much fun just to hang out with her all the time and do what we love to do.”

As she gets ready for graduation in just a matter of days, Hare said she thinks about all the time she has spent with her fellow journalists – and, most importantly, her friends who have supported her throughout her UIL and high school journalism journey and the memories they have together.

“There’s so many great moments from UIL,” Hare said. “It’s hard to name just one. I just love going to competitions with the team and having fun in between competitions. I’m definitely going to miss it after graduation.”