For someone with an incredible knack and love for speaking in public, Caira Heinze suddenly found herself speechless Tuesday in Austin.
The Slidell senior claimed the Class A title in poetry interpretation at the University Interscholastic League’s state academic meet.
“It was incredible,” Heinze said. “Words can’t describe it. I’ve never made it to state in poetry. At regionals, I was sick and came in third place. I didn’t think it was possible to be the state champion.”
Heinze, who will graduate as Slidell’s salutatorian June 1, also took third place in persuasive extemporaneous speaking as she scored 21 points for her school.
The two medals came in her third trip to Austin and state competition. She made it in persuasive speaking as a freshman and sophomore.
“My freshman year, I went down in persuasive, and I was talking to two girls in the lobby that were seniors,” Heinze recalled. “They asked me what grade I was in and when I told them I was a freshman, they were flabbergasted. Looking back, I realize how incredible it was to make it as a freshman.”
That year, she started poetry interpretation and finished fourth at district. As a junior, she finished fourth at regionals in poetry and persuasive speaking, missing a trip to state.
She said her victory this year is a tribute to the effort she and her coaches made over the past four years. Beth Dill is her poetry teacher. Keisha Cope has helped her in persuasive speaking.
“I put in a ton of work, and my coaches put in a ton of time working with me,” Heinze said. “This has such a positive impact on the school which has invested so much time in the students and in UIL to succeed.”
For state, Heinze used selections from “Your Own, Sylvia” by Stephanie Hemphill in prelims. The piece met the requirement of being written by an author born since 1960. She said it was one that she and her coach stumbled upon.
“I like to be able to have different voices in a piece,” Heinze said. “In ‘You Own, Sylvia,’ I have a different persona for all six poems.”
She had used the book for regionals but decided to use several different selections for state.
“I changed three of the six poems the week before state,” Heinze said.
In the finals at state, Heinze interpreted selections she also used as a junior from “My Sex is Ice Cream: The Marilyn Monroe Poems” by Nellie McClung.
“It fit me,” Heinze said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it fit my appearance with the blonde hair.”
The state champion is headed to Texas Woman’s University in Denton to study government with an emphasis on politics. She said her career in UIL academics, which began with oral reading, led her to the choice in majors.
“Without a doubt, UIL transformed me into who I am,” she said. “I started in third grade and followed through to my senior year. I’m going to school and studying government. The persuasive extemporaneous speaking helped me figure out what I wanted to do. It helped me hone my speaking skills and has given me the ability to be who I want to be.”
She’ll forever be a state champion.
“Standing on that stage and realizing I won, I will always look back and remember,” she said. “I don’t have words for it.”