The Burnet High School Social Studies team of Cayden Beatty (left), Aedan McLennan, coach Hunter Hobbs, Brett Nelson, and Claire Teague won the University Interscholastic Class 4A state competition, edging out the highly regarded Hereford High School team. Courtesy photo
Two Burnet High School academic teams won gold — one in Current Issues and Events and the other in Social Studies — during University Interscholastic League Class 4A competition May 6-7 at the University of Texas at Austin.
“This was a total team effort,” said Clint Mulhollan, Burnet teacher and Current Issues and Events team coach. “Usually in a competition, they take the top three individual scores, but we tied with Wimberley (High School), so it came down to our fourth person, and that gave us the state title.”
The Social Studies team from Burnet knocked off state powerhouse Hereford High School.
“For the last 10 years, they’ve been the dominant team,” said Hunter Hobbs, Burnet teacher and Social Studies team coach. “They won five or six state championships when they were (Class) 5A, and since moving to (Class) 4A, they’ve been state champs the last two years. So for our kids to beat them, that’s a big deal. Everyone in (UIL) academics, especially in social studies, knows Hereford and (coach Richard) LaMascus.”
Each year, the UIL holds competitions for a number of academic interests, just as it does in sports.
Current Issues and Events teams begin working early in the school year, studying a breadth of domestic and international issues. This year, anything that occurred from Aug. 16, 2021, through each competition is fair game, Mulhollan explained.
Burnet Current Issues and Events team members Tatum Salinas, Ryan Behrens, Hayden Brown, and Grace Gates pulled information from a number of resources, including national and international news outlets.
“The kids are great, and they’re a blast to be around,” Mulhollan said. “They work together so well and know how to study and keep up on the issues. But it is a lot of work, and it takes time.”
To get to state, teams must advance from district to regional competitions. The top team from each of the four regions automatically earns a trip to the state meet. Then, there’s the wildcard: the fifth team with the next best score out of all the regions, which also heads to state. That was Burnet, which placed second in its regional contest.
“Our region, Region 3, is a pretty strong region, so we were the wildcard,” Mulhollan said.
Teams take a 40-question test at the meets. The top three scores from each member make up the team’s overall score. At state on May 6, Burnet and Wimberley tied for first with a score of 95. However, the tiebreaker went to Burnet because its fourth-best individual score was better than Wimberley’s.
“It was a full team effort,” Mulhollan said.
Individually, Gates was third and Hayden was fifth in state.
The Social Studies contest follows a similar setup, but the UIL organizer picks a theme and book for the season’s topic. This year’s topic, picked in the spring of 2021, was “The Modern Olympic Movement and the Politics of Sport.” The book was: “Rome 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World.”
The book is just the primary reading source, Hobbs pointed out. The contests covered material from 1896 to the modern Olympics.
Social Studies team members take a 40-question objective test and complete an essay at competitions. The team score is based on the test, while individual results are based on the test and the essay.
Contests pick up in January with invitational meets followed by district in March and region in April. At state on May 7, the Burnet team of Cayden Beatty, Aedan McLennan, Brett Nelson, and Claire Teague faced Hereford, Van, Wimberley, and Challenge Early College High School.
With five state titles (2016-18 in Class 5A and 2019 and 2021 in 4A), Hereford was a strong favorite, but Burnet has its own history of success, winning gold in 2018 and 2017 in Class 4A and finishing second in 2021. (No state contest was held in 2020.)
The Bulldogs outscored Hereford 220-212 for the title. Burnet’s Teague won individual gold. Teammate McLennan finished fourth.
“I’m so proud of the kids,” Hobbs said. “I appreciate the kids and the parents, for all the work they do all year.”
The Burnet Social Studies team, which returns all four members next year, doesn’t get much time to rest. The 2022-23 topic has already been announced: “The Roar of the 1920s and Their Echo Through Time: From the Great War to the Great Depression.”