Harlingen’s Gutierrez UIL kids win big with comedy, tragedy, drama

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HARLINGEN – Everyone knows that the kids at Gutierrez Middle School of Arts and Sciences in Harlingen are talented. And now everyone else does too after they came out on top at the UIL Middle School District Tournament held Jan. 19 and 20.

“This is the first time in history that Gutierrez wins first place,” said Sally Navarro, fine arts specialist for the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District.

The kids are pretty psyched, too. Just ask Camila Rohrbaugh, age 13.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot and I feel like I can definitely reach for the stars,” said Camila, one of 70 students from Gutierrez who competed in the event.

Camila and her fellow contestants competed in a variety of events with kids from 12 other schools in Harlingen, San Benito and Los Fresnos.

They competed in duet.

They did prose and Spanish poetry.

In the academic arena they competed in spelling, dictionary skills, ready writing, calculators and more. Just to name a few.

The Gutierrez UIL contestants gathered in the school library Wednesday in their smart clothes and ready smiles and the trophies glittering. So many were the trophies that they created a sort of dazzling and festive vitality powered even more by the energy and the excited talking among the kids and their teachers and their coaches.

“Speech, drama, and debate! With your trophies, guys!” said one instructor as they assembled for a picture.

The Gutierrez Middle School students in Harlingen took the top prizes in a UIL competition held from Jan. 19-20. (Courtesy Photo)

There was the shuffling and shifting and the changes in the air as they found their places for the photo.

“UIL! UIL! Stand up! I need you to be behind the chairs! Behind the chairs!”

Between the photo shoots and the shifting and the shuffling the kids stopped to share their success and their joy of that success.

Charlie Strohmeyer and his friend Christopher Vento had a blast performing a duet called “UFO Menace.” They had fun and took second place for their event.

“Me and Charlie are best friends and we decided to do a comedy,” said Christopher, 12, a sixth grader.

“We are both very, very funny,” he continued. “Me and him turned into these philosopher guys and we made these British accents.”

Charlie elaborated.

“It’s about two nerdy teenagers who have a podcast because they are really into UFOs,” he said. “They are being their funny, quirky, silly selves, until they start finding out that some people don’t believe in aliens. Oh, my gosh, how can you not believe in aliens.”

Hilarious.

Others approached the competition with an eye to the serious challenges of life.

“My prose is about a girl and she finds out her best friend has cancer,” said Karina Kortan, 12. “It’s a story about how she’s dealing with the loss of her best friend and she’s sad and it’s hard for her. It’s her saying goodbye and like, the leading up to passing away.”

She and her duet partner, Camila, championed in duet for a performance of “Steel Magnolias,” something they’ve been working on for quite some time. She felt this latest treatment was the best yet.

“I think we had different tones in our voice,” she said. “We escalated our voices when we needed to be louder or quieter, and we put a lot more emotion into our performance.”

Another duet was presented by Vesper Garza, 11, and her partner in the competition, Ana Sofia Corrales.

“We did a varied piece that I think showed off our acting,” said Vesper, a sixth grader. “I loved working with her, she was great.”

She took first place in ready writing, in which she had to choose one of two prompts and write an essay about it.

“I think I really brought the readers into my story and really elaborated,” she said. “I’m very proud of myself and I hope that I continue this in my ongoing years. I’m really proud of my coaches for making me the way I am.”