Though Claire Cook had to forfeit her slot at a regional science meet after the West Fertilizer Co. explosion last month, she still snagged a first-place medal, thanks to a fellow competitor’s heart of gold.
Cook, a sophomore at West High School, had earned a spot to compete in the University Interscholastic League’s regional science meet in April after she was the top scorer in the biology category and placed second in science during the District 17-3A meet in March.
But the regional competition was set for April 20, just three days after the explosion.
West’s intermediate, middle and high school campuses are closed because of damage sustained from the explosion’s impact.
The district canceled classes in the days after the incident and ultimately decided to pull out of the UIL meet.
“I was a little bit disappointed because I had worked to get there,” said Cook, adding that she wasn’t displaced from her home by the explosion. “Things were kind of crazy at the time, and we didn’t have the school.”
Connally High School senior Lyndsey Wilson, who had placed fourth overall in the district meet, was bumped up to take Cook’s spot.
She ended up taking fifth in the regional science contest, but she was the top scorer in the biology category, which earned her a gold medal and a spot at
the Class 3A state meet at the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday.
Rather than reveling in the spoils of her victory, Wilson decided to give her gold medal to Cook.
“It seemed like the right thing to do,” said Wilson, who will graduate as salutatorian this month. “She had earned the right to go on to regional at district over me, but circumstances kept her from going.”
The gesture is another example of the neighborly bond that has grown between the two school districts since the explosion.
Connally students and faculty volunteered the weekend after the explosion to reopen the district’s dormant intermediate campus to take in West’s middle and high school students.
Wilson informed her UIL science coach Andy Holcombe of her intentions when she returned from the regional competition.
The high school surprised Cook with the medal during a joint assembly last week for West and Connally students. It was the first time the two girls met.
“I was just really surprised at first,” said Cook, 16, who would have made it to regionals for the first time this year. “It was surprising and also touching. It was really nice.”
Wilson, who also will compete in the UIL state journalism headline writing contest Tuesday, hasn’t decided what she will do if she wins a medal at the state meet.
But Holcombe said he’s still been impressed with her actions thus far.
“When she told me that she was going to do this, I told her she was better than I am, especially at that age,” said Holcombe, an integrated physics and chemistry teacher. “I don’t think I would have done that. I don’t think many of us would have.”