Skip to main content

Southlake Style

Carroll Academics Wins Regionals, Heading to States

May 07, 2015 07:46AM ● By Kevin

Carroll Academics. Photo courtesy of Carroll ISD.

The Carroll High School academic team took home further honors last weekend. Winning district earlier last month, they stepped it up a notch and took home the regional crown at UT-Arlington. They now prepare to head on to state competition. The Social Studies, CompSci and Current Events teams from Carroll all advanced to regionals in the district round, and according to MySouthlakeNews, were favored to win.

Overall the Carroll team won sweepstakes, meaning they won the overall point total. For each event that students win, they accumulate points, which total up giving the award to an overall team winner. Carroll scored 126 points, with Flower Mound coming in second at 113 points.

The Dragons have finished in second place the past two years at regionals overall as a team.

"Headed into the meet I did not think we'd win, I was hoping we'd finish in the top three, but I was worried even about that," said academic coordinator John Irish. "The kids and coaches stepped it up a notch. I am so proud of all our kids, not just my Social Studies team, the Current Events team did very well. Ms. Frank has got that team moving in the right direction. Ms. Rose and the journalism team also won first place. She is such an inspiration to all of us. She pushes her kids and they responded big time."

Although it wasn't a far drive, the experience was still a good one for the students. The past two years they had to travel to Lubbock, so Arlington was nice, Irish said. Decreasing the stresses of travel helped ease some minds, but not all. 

"The Social Studies kids were stressed," Irish said. "They knew they did not have as strong a district score they should have. Our score was good at regionals, we won, but we have a lot of work to do."

Right they rank third in the state. Pride is on the line as they try to protect the tradition.

"These students love competing, so the fact that they were competing was enough for them," Irish said. "Winning was the icing on the cake. It was my first regional championship here at Carroll. This is only my third year at Carroll and we've already built a winning program and reputation."

The state competition is May 26-28. Irish has coached state championship teams 7 of the past 10 years. The Carroll Social Studies team, earned the highest score in the state for 6A schools after the district meet, according to MySouthlakeNews. That team is also two-time defending State Champions.

"We dropped a bit, but that's not unusual," Irish said after the regional meet. "My teams in the past have struggled at regionals, I've not actually ever won regionals. This year the Social Studies team did win. Partly because our big rivals, Irving MacArthur was moved to a different region. They are the top team in the state right now. But we've been there before, I think the kids will respond and rise to the occasion, like we've done in the past. Other coaches will tell you, the road to a state championship goes through Carroll. Until we get beat, we are the reigning champs."

Keys to Success

Irish attributed strong recruiting and relationship-building to the successes of the academic team.

"Any academic competition requires a tremendous amount of work on the students," he said. "All of these students are heavily involved in AP classes already. So to convince them to add more on their plate requires a very good recruiter."

Irish said he tries to watch the students in the fall and really talk to them about doing UIL. Once they try-out, the right system must be in place. The try-out process is rigorous as 10-12 students normally try out for four spots. More important is the relationship-building aspect, though. 

"The students see that you genuinely care about them; there is nothing they won't do for you," he said. "If you don't have that, then teams fall apart, especially when things get difficult."

Irish started coaching in 2004 when it first began. He was at Katy Taylor and had been out of coaching tennis for a few years.

"They approached me about the possibility, I said, 'Well, if you want me to do this, then I'm going to win,'" he recalled. 

The first year, the team lost the state championship by two points, or basically one question.

"We were devistated!" he said. "I really did not think anyone could beat us. I followed that up with a clear state championship. I also had the best student in the state that year. Amanda won District, Regionals, and State as an individual."

The Team

Of all of his teams, Irish calls this one the strongest he's ever had, which is saying a lot since every year he has strong, competitive teams.

"You don't win as much as I have without developing a winning program," he said. "Success builds upon itself. This team is very good. Last year's team was amazing. It was the only team I've ever had in which all four students finished in the top six at state. This year team is equally strong."

Kelly Danner is the leader of the team and is the captain of the UIL Academic team. She has won district and regionals as an individual this year.

"Her work ethic is unmatched by any student I've ever seen before, she reminds me a lot of Amanda (my first individual state champion)," Irish said. 

Kendall Costello is the next big gun for the Dragons. She finished just behind Danner at district and regionals.

"The two of them offer a great one-two punch and are clearly the two best students in the state," Irish said. 

The other two students are also very strong in Alice Liu and Won Gyeong Seong.


The state competition is bittersweet for Irish, as this will be his last year doing UIL. As he begins work on his doctorate at Southern Methodist University this fall, Irish had to make the tough decision, but knew it was the right one.

He said he leaves the program in capable hands and will still be on staff to teach AP U.S. History at the high school.

"I love teaching at this school," he said. "The students are amazing and the parents are so supportive. Great teachers and administrators. I moved up here from Katy, I taught at Taylor and Seven Lakes, both very good schools as well. But at Carroll I feel home. It is great to be a Dragon!"