Yantis junior makes headlines by taking state UIL victory

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

May 10, 2007 - Holly Madden usually writes headlines in the heat of competition, but she was making them as the top Class A Academic State University Interscholastic League headline writer.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Yantis High School junior Holly Madden returned from the Texas UIL competition held last week in Austin as the state Class A champion in headline writing.

The accomplishment was especially fantastic for the Yantis 11th grader because she didn't expect the work she turned in to make the grade. A panel of recognized professionals, however, thought differently.

"She did a good job. I'm proud of her," said Yantis High School headline writing coach and UIL coordinator Chip Mathews. "Holly worked really hard.”

According to Madden and Mathews, her confidence after both the regional and state meets were quite different, but the final result left Madden speechless and had the Yantis group beaming.

She qualified for the regional contest with a first-place district finish. After reading all six story prompts, or summaries, Madden felt confident of the headlines she turned in at the regional meet. And while the judges felt they were good, they gave top ranking to a student from another school. 

Madden's confidence in her headline entries at the state meet wasn’t as high. In fact, she told Mathews she didn't feel she did good at all.

At the awards ceremony the next day at the University of Texas, she was convinced of it, even after they called her name.

"She came out and told me she was not as strong, so I was expecting maybe fifth or sixth, which is still good at state," Mathews explained. “At the big awards at UT on May 3, we waited for the results. They called the sixth, fifth, fourth, then third and second. When it got to second, it caught our attention.”

The second place winner was senior Laura Zimmer from Lindsey, the Class A regional headline champion, who through her years of UIL competition has been a staunch rival for Yantis because of state wins in spelling, headline and editorial writing, to name a few.

When “Jessica Madden” was announced as the first place winner, it took a moment for it to register with Holly, who generally answers to her middle name.

"She put her hand over her mouth," Mathews said of Madden's disbelief.

"I didn't expect it at all," Madden said. "I still can't even believe it."

To celebrate, Madden was taken out for one of her favorite treats, ice cream.

Madden's determination and continued diligence striving for a higher caliber of writing began last year, when she placed third at district, enough to advance to the regional UIL meet in headline writing. She considered that a learning experience, and dug in deeper.

She practiced by studying work from past competitions. Each year work and prompts from each contest are printed as study packets to help the next competitors. Next year, she'll be honored knowing it’s her name and work the competitors are studying.

During practice sessions, Mathews would cut out articles from big name publications such as “Time,” “U.S. News & World Report” and “Newsweek,” minus the headlines. Madden then was given the task of writing headlines, then compared them with those written by the professional journalists.

"It helped to see them," Madden said. 

Just like at the UIL contests, she was given six articles to review, a space count in which the headline must fit, and had to write different headlines. Some would extend two and three lines or have sub-heads which captured what the judge deemed to be the main idea of the story. 

"It's harder than it looks," Matthews said. “They have to make it fit, something clever, yet not too cutesy. It has to be something the average ready can go on, clever with a catch. It's a balancing act.”

Madden, who enjoys riding horses and plays on the school volleyball team, said that she definitely plans to try again next year for a shot at the state title. She'll also be trying her hand at spelling.

Holly Madden wasn't the only Yantis student at the state meet. Amanda McKinney also competed in featuring writing at state after taking the regional title.

"I thought she wrote a good article," Matthew said of the sophomore, who wrote a feature from an interview for the first time at a contest. "She wrote a good feature. She's still the regional champ. She did good for a sophomore."

In fact, aside from interviews of two teachers, the state contest was the only live interview she participated in. The feature writers were given written information from which they wrote stories at the other UIL meets. 

"She is one of the best writers, the best feature writer's I've had," said Mathews.

In addition to UIL competition, the state UIL competitors also enjoyed shopping at the mall, touring the State Capitol and visiting the LBJ Library.

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