Tolar claims fourth straight state title
The most dominant University Interscholastic League program in Hood County won its fourth straight state championship last week.
Tolar High School’s social studies team, led by teacher Cal Lowry, took first place as a team and swept the top three individual medals at the Class 3A state meet in Austin. Senior Cara Burch won gold, senior Claire Turner earned silver and junior Nicholas Trammel won bronze. Savannah Bagley and Kricket Tolbert rounded out the team.
Tolar’s score was the second highest score in the state across all classifications, and Burch’s score was the highest individual mark. The team had to commit to studying a binder full of information, up until the day of the tournament. Lowry said he found Burch in the team hotel highlighting information at 6:30 a.m. the morning of the competition.
“When it became clear the best way to win was to commit to that – that’s not always fun,” he said. “We put that as our sole focus.”
“They have the best study habits of any group I’ve ever seen.”
The theme of this year’s competition was “U.S. Civil Rights: Fulfilling a Nation’s Promise,” and Tolar team members were able to take a trip in November along with students from Gran-bury High School to the Deep South in order see firsthand some of the most important places in civil rights history.
“Pretty much anywhere that anything happened in our topic, we were there,” Trammel said.
“It definitely made it not just in a history book. You realized it was real,” Turner said.
For much of the year, students on the Tolar team have known that their teammates are their greatest competition.
“Our biggest competition (Mr. Lowry) always says is already in the room at school, and it’s true,” Turner said.
“That was our strength this year,” Lowry said. “They would shift positions each time. At regionals, Savannah medaled and Claire didn’t, and at state Claire medaled and actually passed Nick.”
But even with the team spirit, there’s a camaraderie between members.
“We know we’re each other’s equals,” Turner said. “It’s enjoyable to not be completely alone and just stay at home and study.”
And they know that if one person doesn’t do his or her best, it might cost the team a state championship.
“At that level, it’s like, if one of us slips, that’s it,” Trammel said.
GOING OUT ON TOP
This was Lowry’s final year coaching the social studies team for Tolar. He will retire from teaching after the 2020-21 school year.
“I felt like I owed it to my wife to leave UIL behind for at least one year while I was teaching,” he said. “It’s an obsession – I go home and I talk about it, and I’m sure she’s tired of listening.
“It was nice. It was satisfying. They know when Tolar comes into the room, and it’s a nice feeling.”