Slidell wins region title; Students across the county advance to state

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, April 21, 2018
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STATEBOUND – Slidell captured the 1A Region III UIL academics title last weekend. Madison Splawn, Layton Shelton, Stone Coston, Shelby Johnson and Taylor Davis won individual gold medals at the regional contest. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

Throughout Saturday, Taylor Davis found little time to check scores and see where Slidell ranked among the other schools at the Class A Region III UIL academics contest in Keller.

Between competing in informative speaking and poetry, the Slidell senior stayed on the move.

“It was stressful. I got out of one event and literally went straight to the other event without getting to change,” Davis said.

As the day wore on, Slidell and rival Tioga started to distance from the rest of the competition.

“It came down to the end,” said senior Shelby Johnson.

After the final tally, Slidell had captured the region crown with 259 points – 40 more than second-place Tioga. Along with winning the region sweepstakes title, Slidell captured team crowns in computer science, journalism and speech. The school’s one-act play also advanced to state for a fourth straight year.

Slidell will take competitors to Austin for the UIL state championships in 10 different contests, including the one-act play. The academic state contests are May 4-5 at UT-Austin. The speech contests will be held May 21-22 at UT-Austin.

“I’m excited. It’s my fourth year to get to go to state,” Davis said.

Johnson added the school has a shot to bring home the state title. Slidell won the Class A title in 2015.

Johnson and Davis said they only contributed to that title with one-act play performances and individual awards.

“We had a lot of talented upperclassmen that year,” Davis said.

The seniors again took on that role this year. Johnson and Davis, along with Layton Shelton and Stone Coston, advanced to state in two events each as did junior Madison Splawn.

Shelton won news writing and finished second in editorial writing.

“I came out of my events and didn’t know if I placed,” Shelton said.

“I was expecting to make [state] last year. It’s all subjective. But I worked a lot this year, writing three days per week.”

Coston, who was the silver medalist last year in tennis, will get a chance to add to his state medal collection. He won computer applications and computer science.

He led a Slidell sweep of the medal stand in computer applications. Tristyn Talamantes took second and Warren Johnson third.

“Computer science was the harder of the two. There wasn’t a lot of competition in computer applications other than the other Slidell kids [in the region],” Coston said.

Slidell won three speech events. Splawn won prose with her serious pieces – “Hate List” about a school shooting and “Taking Destiny” which is about sex trafficking.

“The goal is to make them cry,” Splawn said.

Johnson added a poetry title and finished third in persuasive speaking. In poetry, he read one selection about a basketball team dying in a car accident and another about gun violence.

Davis won informative speaking and finished second in prose, reading “This is Where it Ends” about a school shooting and “Backlash” about cyberbullying.

Now the team has one goal.

“The goal is to win state,” Coston said.


Finishing runner-up at the Class A Region III contest, Slidell’s one-act play will advance to the state contest for a fourth straight year.

The cast and crew in Slidell’s production of “Paganini” will perform May 4 in Round Rock.

Shelby Johnson was named best actor. Sydney Keating earned all-star cast. Taylor Davis and Madison Splawn received honorable mention all-star cast. Layton Shelton was named best tech.


Bridgeport freshman Jacob Richey won the editorial writing contest at the 4A Region II meet April 14 and will compete at state May 4.

His coach, UIL Coordinator Cindy Berry, said Richey has an incredible work ethic and it shows in his writing.

“I’m super proud of him because he’s worked so hard to earn this spot at state,” Berry said. “To make it as a freshman is that much better because it’s pretty rare. He writes editorials and brings them to me for critiques all the time.”

When Richey learned he won at regionals, he was almost in tears.

“I know that mine and Mrs. Berry’s mouths fell open, and we just stared for a second,” he said. “It was just unbelievable.”


A senior and a freshman from Paradise are advancing to state May 4-5, competing in three different events.

Senior Logan Waggoner placed third in number sense and mathematics at the 3A Region I meet. He was an alternate at state last year, but this will be his first time to compete.

“If I had to put it in words, it’s amazing, exhilarating. I’m relieved,” he said. “Now my parents won’t nag me anymore.”

Waggoner’s father Neil coaches him in mathematics, and UIL Coordinator Megayla O’Rear coaches number sense.

“Mrs. O’Rear is an amazing coach, and my dad tries his best,” Waggoner joked.

Freshman Hailey Holt placed second in news writing. She only started competing in news writing at the district meet, which she won.

“I was thrown into this event at the last minute before district because they didn’t have a full team,” Holt said, “and I guess I was good at it.”

Top Competitors

TOP COMPETITORS – Decatur High School juniors (from left) Nathaniel Carr, Benjamin Waddill and Elizabeth Warren placed at the 4A Region II UIL academic meet April 14. Waddill placed second in current events and will advance to state May 4. Carr and Warren landed fourth-place finishes in headline writing and spelling, respectively, securing them as alternates to the state contest. Photo courtesy of Oliver Gordon


Decatur junior Benjamin Waddill placed second in current events at the 4A Region II UIL academic meet April 14 and will compete at state May 4.

Juniors Nathaniel Carr and Elizabeth Warren placed fourth in headline writing and spelling, respectively, securing alternate spots to the state contest.

“I’ve been competing in UIL since I was in middle school, and it’s not easy,” Carr said. “This is the first year I’ve made it past the district level.”

Neither Carr nor Waddill study for their competitions. Waddill keeps up with current news, and every Tuesday he and the current events team met with coach Natalie Chance to take practice tests and write essays. Although Carr doesn’t study, he frequently practices writing headlines while Warren, on the other hand, has to memorize about 1,000 words.

“Spelling is one of those events that you have to study a lot for,” Warren said. “Some of our words are from different languages, foreign cultures, and just common sayings that are almost never seen in writing.”

Waddill said when he saw the results he was relieved for himself and excited to be going to state for the first time, but he was sad for his teammates who didn’t make it.

“The night before I stayed up really late just talking with my teammates,” Waddill said. “I believed we just needed to get the test out of our head and relax and enjoy the experience. I can say that we did. ”


Slidell results

Current issues: 2. Slidell
Computer science: 1. Slidell
Journalism: 1. Slidell
Speech: 1. Slidell

Accounting: 2. Easton Vanover
Computer applications: 1. Stone Coston, 2. Tristyn Talamantes, 3. Warren Johnson
Computer science: 1. Stone Coston, 4. Dusty Davis, 5. Tristyn Talamantes, 6. Warren Johnson
Editorial writing: 2. Layton Shelton
Headline writing: 6. Bailey Meyer
Informative speaking: 1. Taylor Davis, 3. Bailey Keating, 6. Madison Splawn
News writing: 1. Layton Shelton
Persuasive speaking: 3. Shelby Johnson, 5. Brady Vanover
Prose interpretation: 1. Madison Splawn, 2. Taylor Davis
Poetry interpretation: 1. Shelby Johnson, 2. Sydney Keating


Paradise results
Current issues: 6. John Pennington
Mathematics: 3. Logan Waggoner
Number sense: 3. Logan Waggoner
News writing: 2. Hailey Holt


Current issues: 2. Decatur

Current issues: 2. Benjamin Waddill, Decatur
Editorial writing: 1. Jacob Richey, Bridgeport
Headline writing: 4. Nate Carr, Decatur
Spelling: 4. Elizabeth Warren, Decatur


Computer applications: 4. Derek Maynard

Messenger reporter Racey Burden and Youth Spoken reporter Nathaniel Carr contributed to this report.

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