Category: Sports & Entertainment

Seniors, coach look to build lasting legacy beyond title run

Dalton Phillips
Justin Martinez

The Chaps were falling apart.

What was a nine-point advantage for Westlake heading into the fourth quarter of the 2016-2017 State Regional Finals against Wagner had since evaporated. With just 10 seconds remaining on the clock and the score tied at 52, one team’s season was about to end in heartbreak.

Wagner’s DaRaun Clark had caught fire in the final quarter, scoring seven points to lead the Thunderbird comeback. Now with the game on the line, the junior guard called for the ball one more time.

Clark made a dash for the corner, caught the pass and pulled the trigger without any hesitation. Every person in the gym watched as the ball soared through the air and found the bottom of the net with only three seconds left.

Ball game.

The Chaps were denied a chance to respond as an intentional foul sent then-junior forward Matthew Mayer to the line for a pair of free throws – a formality at that point.

The final buzzer sounded as the Thunderbirds advanced with a 55-53 win. And just like that, Westlake’s season came to an abrupt end.

The loss to Wagner marked the second year in a row the team found itself eliminated in the Regional Finals. The program has never advanced any further in the postseason.

But for the Chaps, the 2017-2018 season would be different. It had to be.

Last season’s collapse only redoubled Westlake’s efforts as head coach Robert Lucero reformed his approach in the offseason. There was a new urgency. With four key players entering their senior year, the window was rapidly closing. But the team entered the season more confident than ever.

“We’re gonna go to State,” senior guard Keonte Kennedy said. “We’re trying to bring back a ring. Last year we fell short, and we don’t want to do that again.”

The start of the new campaign brought an end to the perpetual focus that had followed the star-studded roster last season. Lucero noted even when the team would travel for an away game in Houston or Dallas, the venue would be packed with scouts, coaches and basketball sites all wanting to see Mayer or Kennedy or Cunningham for themselves.

In October 2017 the four players signed letters of intent and their future was set. This final season, now free of distraction, could be about leaving a legacy with a final championship run.

“There was a lot of pressure (last season) to live up to the standard that the media had put on them.” Lucero said. “Which is kind of unique when you’re only 15 or 16 or 17 years old. But they’ve seen so much now. And since they’ve committed that has taken away a lot of that pressure.”

Sharing touches between four D1 recruits isn’t always easy. Lucero noted that in past seasons, getting guys to play off of one another didn’t always come naturally. Part of the team’s postseason struggles stemmed in part from the overlapping skill sets.

“On any given play, you have Will inside who probably has a mismatch, and you have Brock and Keonte and Matt and Luke, and all of them probably have a mismatch,” Lucero said. “So the challenge is trying to make sure that we are playing as a team.”

The seniors say the difference this season is a renewed emphasis on team culture, both on and off the court. The coaching staff has hosted eleven different sessions dedicated to team culture, with each class focusing on a different facet of the winning formula. Lucero had each of the players give him their own list of core values, which he combined into a unified team vision.

“Definitely chemistry (is different),” senior forward Brock Cunningham said. “Last year it looked like there wasn’t nearly as much chemistry as there is this year. There was a lot of selfishness going on last year.”

The change in culture has translated into immediate success on the court. The Chaps ended with the best regular-season record in the program’s history at 31-3, finishing 18th in the nation – the school’s highest national ranking.

With the win over rival Lake Travis on January 30, Westlake secured the top seed heading into the postseason. And although the top seed is a milestone for the program, the Chaps know it’ll come with added pressure.

“The challenge is that every team gives us their best shot wherever we go,” Cunningham said. “They know that if they win against Westlake it’ll really change their season and they can hang their hat on that one. And if we lose, it’s everything.”

Now, with a first-round matchup against Churchill rapidly approaching, the team is gearing up for the program’s most important postseason run.

But the Chaps have more than just this season’s title aspirations on the line. Lucero and his tight-knit group of seniors hope to build a winning culture that will last far beyond a single record-setting season.

“I’ve got two goals,” Cunningham said. “One is to win state and two is to create a culture for Westlake that’ll last the next four years. We influence the freshman and hopefully they can carry that on when they eventually become the seniors.”

Westlake Infographic Final

Deep in the Soul of Texas: Austin’s Jazz Scene

By Elisa Garcia, Sung Jai Lee, Lauryn Overhultz, Jasleen Shokar, Mary Layne Strieber


 New Orleans-inspired jazz band, La Grosse Tete performs at Capital City Comedy Club on February 11. Photo taken by Sung Jai Lee

When people refer to Austin as ‘the Live Music Capital of the World,’ the music that comes to mind is mostly guitar-based country or rock ‘n’ roll. Although the home of Willie Nelson is not known for its jazz, Austin’s jazz scene has opportunities to enjoy the genre with some of the country’s richest history.

According to a 2015 article from Al Jazeera, jazz emerged a century ago from the combination of African rhythms and Western musical structure, played on military marching band instruments  rock ‘n’ roll was only a slight reinvention.

However, the jazz that originated during this time is different from the jazz people have come to know and love today. Sungil Gadgil, the director of the Austin Saxophone Ensemble, explained how jazz music evolved over time. After the 1920s, jazz spread across the U.S. and different artists developed divergent styles of the blues.

The jazz music of the early 1900s was centered around dance music, according to Gadgil.

“It’s music of entertainment and it’s music of the moment,” he said. “It’s a lot of wartime music going on, a lot of the Roaring ‘20s, there’s a lot of money, there’s a lot of illicit alcohol, a lot of partying going on and jazz is accompanying that life at that time.”

After the 1920s, jazz artists began to borrow from swing dance. As swing dance culture began to become popular, Dixieland emerged, which is also known as traditional jazz. 

Infographic made by Sung Jai Lee

Not only has the musical style of jazz changed over time, the places where jazz thrives have changed as well.

As a result of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in 2005, New Orleans’ jazz scene saw a migration of musicians from New York and Chicago who played slightly different forms of jazz, according to Al Jazeera.

One place that can serve as an example of how Hurricane Katrina changed New Orleans’ music is Frenchmen Street, according to Al Jazeera. After Katrina washed everything away, Frenchmen Street became the new music district. However, jazz is not made in local neighborhoods anymore. Instead, it is a modern reflection of original jazz.

Frenchmen Street wasn’t the only place that took time to recover. John Boutté, a vocalist and trumpeter based in New Orleans, returned after the storm to a city without music.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Boutté said he took gigs “as soon as they said the doors were open.”

“The sounds after the catastrophe – the helicopters, the buzz saws, the sirens, the pile drivers, the hammers, shit falling down around you – the sounds were not pleasant,” Boutté said. “There were no natural sounds. We didn’t have any crickets. We didn’t have any birds. As musicians, we had to counter that with positive sounds.”

According to Dave Stoddard, president of the Austin Traditional Jazz Society, jazz musicians were forced to move into different areas after the storm. Many chose to migrate to Texas. Instead of heading back to New Orleans after the city began to rebuild, they stayed and helped grow the jazz scene in San Antonio and Austin.


Photos taken by Elisa Garcia and Sung Jai Lee

ATJS Photographer Tom Straus said he believes Texas still has room to grow its jazz scene.

“Traditional jazz is not very big in Texas,” Straus said. “One of the reasons it’s not too big in Texas is because it’s Texas. Natives listen to country-western and bluegrass, because that’s what they were raised on.”

Yet, Austin had a major renaissance of traditional jazz in the early 2000s, according to Stoddard.

Stoddard said traditional jazz is also known as ‘White New Orleans’ or ‘Dixieland.’ The earliest band to showcase this form of jazz was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, which was founded in New Orleans in 1916 and issued the first commercial jazz record in 1917.

“Now, we have quite a lot of jazz,” Stoddard said. “You can hear some form of traditional jazz almost every night of the week somewhere in the greater Austin area.”

Today, Austin has a range of jazz venues such as The Skylark Lounge, Elephant Room, The Continental Club, Antone’s and C-Boy’s Heart & Soul.

“People in Austin are interested in a variety of music forms,” Stoddard said. “If they’ll come listen to us, they’ll very often like what they hear.”


Cultures Dance their way into Austin

 By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec

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Bright dresses and choreographed dance moves captured the stage at the Austin Earth Day Festival on Saturday.  

The Mueller Lake Park event highlighted multiple social dance styles, including flamenco, ballet folklórico, square dancing and tango.

Oaxaca: Arte en Movimiento, was one of the dance groups at the event. It presented a traditional Mexican dance from Oaxaca. Edgar Yepez dance instructor at Oaxaca, said the dance represents Mexican heritage.

“It’s a Mexican tradition,” Yepez said. “It’s a Mexican folklore.”

Arte en Movimento’s goal is to be a growing space for culture and art, while promoting diversity, opportunity and cultural expression. Yepez said they’ve been around for a year and have seen their program grow tremendously from four participants to 40. He credits the growth to style of dance.

“The main difference in the style of dance is Guelaguetza,” Yepez said. “No one is doing Guelaguetza in Austin. That’s the main difference between other kinds of dance.”

Oaxaca showcases the vibrant social dance culture in the city.

But Austin isn’t always as kind to professional dance. Austin’s professional dance culture has the same issues as other major cities. According to Caroline Clark, who is working on her Ph.D. about Austin dance, said the only dancers who make a salary are ballet dancers. There’s also limited space. But she added that “that’s true everywhere.”

While professional dance has its troubles in the city, Clark said the most important thing about Austin’s dance culture is its growth.


Origins of Dance Cultures

Infographic Created By: Kaylee Nemec 


“The most important thing to know about Austin dance is that as Austin’s population grows, the diversity of dance forms that one can do here increases,” Clark said. “There are many kinds of dance here, from African forms to Hispanic forms to European folk forms to Asian forms. And, don’t forget the big Native American powwow that takes place every November. And, the very influential Texas dance hall tradition.”

Some of the biggest reasons for social dance’s popularity in Austin is it’s fun atmosphere. Mickey Jacobs, a senior tango instructor at Esquina Tango Cultural Society of Austin, said people attend tango classes at Esquina for the relaxed environment.

“We laugh a lot,” Jacobs said. “It’s a very open, and welcoming community. That’s really what esquina is known for and that’s what brings people back. It’s not intimidating … We make it easy to take that first step.”

Jacobs said Esquina offers a wide variety of classes. The main focus is Argentine tango, which places emphasis on the dance partners’ connection. Jacob’s performed a tango routine with fellow instructor Orazzio Loayza at Saturday’s festival, which displayed the dance’s heavy reliance on a duo’s embrace, and it additionally showed the technical side of the dance.

“It’s a couples dance first and foremost so learning to have the conversation, if you will, between the follower and the leader, but instead of a verbal conversation, it’s a conversation with your body,” Jacobs said. “It’s a very sensual dance. It’s all about responding to each other’s body movement … It all goes back to an embrace. The dance position is called the abrazo, which means embrace, and that’s where everything originates.”

Jacobs added that Esquina isn’t the only place in Austin teaching tango. She said the tango culture in Austin, much like the city’s overall dance community, is alive and well.

“There’s a very vibrant community,” Jacobs said. “There are a few 100 people, who regularly dance tango. There are definitely people around town, who are great, that serve people all around Austin … There are good teachers throughout the city, and a very vibrant active community.”



Meanings of Bharata Natyam Hand Gestures

Photos and Cutlines By: Kaylee Nemec



Photos and Cutlines By: Nick Castillo


Videos filmed and produced by: Sara Eunice Martinez

Cap10K Draws Athletes And Families Alike

By Maria Chairez, Jacob Martella, & Jack Vrtis

The Austin American Statesman has put together the largest 10K race in Texas engaging in community fun and togetherness throughout the iconic routes of Austin.

Beginning at the infamous Congress Avenue Bridge, then heading down straight towards the Capitol, up and down hills, passing through neighborhoods, and then finishing up at Auditorium Shores on Lady Bird Lake for some fun after a successful run. From children in strollers to people of all ages and even dogs who get to enjoy the scenic routes with Austin’s community.

This community event isn’t just for seasoned runners, but for anyone who wants to enjoy themselves throughout the beautiful city of Austin.

Cap10K Runners

There are many crowds throughout the race cheering everyone on as well as bands that are playing throughout the race as an entertaining support of all participants.

Austin’s uniqueness is also very welcomed throughout the race by people being able to show their fun sides by wearing any costumes of their choice.

Whether people choose to run alone, with an organization, friends, or family – all are welcome. The race is for each individual to focus on being their best and enjoying a healthy paced run/walk.

University Fashion Group in their ‘Elements’ for upcoming fashion show

A feature on the University of Texas’ University Fashion Group. The UFG is putting on their annual fashion show,
titled Elements in 2016, on April 14.

By J.D. Harris, Lauren Florence and Fatima Puri

After four years of designing unique clothing and countless all-nighters spent sewing together their collections, 23 senior apparel designs students will display the culmination of all their hard work in front of an audience of thousands.

“Elements” is the title and theme of this year’s annual student fashion show which will premiere each student’s five-piece collection at the Frank Erwin Center on April 14. Last year, the show brought in an attendance of 5,000 people, but planners of the show estimate the audience to exceed that this year.

The annual fashion show, which is organized by students of the University Fashion Group, will feature 120 original designs to be judged in various categories, such as best evening wear or best active wear, by a panel of local industry professionals.

A model wearing an outfit designed by student Aaron Kuback. Photo courtesy of The Statesman/Ed Lehmann.

A model wearing an outfit designed by student Aaron Kuback. Photo courtesy of the Statesman/Ed Lehmann.

Ockhee Bego, professor of textiles and apparel who is supervising the senior collections and directing the show, said she teaches classes from the freshman to senior level and that the most difficult part of the fashion show for her students is time management.

“[When] they started out some of them never knew how to sew any garments to now they are designing and producing all the garments,” Bego said. “The main part is the time management because our students, they are not only learning for design but as you can imagine they do business, they do chemistry, they do biology and they do accounting—all those things, plus, they are creating and producing the garments.”

While the hair and makeup of the models will be kept consistent among all the designers to emphasize the clothing collections, Bego said designers could request models that had a certain type of look that complimented their collection.

Tré Miles, president of the University Fashion Group and a designer in the Elements show, said his collection stemmed from conversations on gender presentation and he requested both male and female models to wear his pieces.

Miles, who took 19 credit hours this semester and has a part-time job, said he’s not the first senior designer to take on the double duty of also being president of the University Fashion group, though it’s usually highly recommended that designers don’t.

Tasneem Saifee model

A model wearing a bridal gown designed by student Tasneem Saifee. Photo courtesy of the Statesman/Ed Lehmann.

“It’s definitely interesting how to balance it,” Miles said. “It came to a point where obviously better organizational skills—I’ve challenged myself so much on that, and being very open and accessible. One of the funniest things I think in learning to balance everything was learning to be as objective and straightforward as you can be—not allowing anyone to get too emotional, not allowing people to get angry at me.”

Mary Urban, marketing sophomore and assistant director of development of the University Fashion Group, said although she is not a textiles and apparel major she joined the University Fashion Group with the hope of pursuing a career in the fashion-tech industry.

“I definitely think it works very well because I’m a very creative mind but I’m also an analytical mind because I’m good at math, so it’s a really good balance, and honestly I think if I only did one I’d go crazy,” Urban said.

The fashion show will be held April 14 at 7:15 p.m. in the Frank Erwin Center, and admission is free and open to the public.

Texas Bike Tours


Photo: Texas Bike Tours Website

Photo: Texas Bike Tours Website

Whether you consider yourself an ‘Austinite,’ or you spent some time visiting Austin, you can always find something new and fun to do in the Capitol of Texas. The city boasts of a plethora of sites to see. Maybe you want to grab a bite at popular food trucks or take memorable pictures at some of Austin’s major landmarks. Seek adventure with not only family and friends, but with an experienced pathfinder to guide you along your new adventure.

Ride with Texas Bike Tours, a company that can match you up with a tour guide to follow along with on your own bike! Listen to the pathfinders explain Austin history as you bike along the new boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake and continue strolling through downtown, gaining knowledge about Austin’s “weird” culture.

Tourists enjoy the engaged and interactive nature of the bike tours.

“I’ve been on bus tours in Europe, but to be out, and to see people and smell things was just super cool,” said Tracey Maloney, Texas Bike Tours customer.  

The company also personalizes each tour to the interests of the group, so every tour is unique and just how you want it. Enjoy a fun and personalized adventure in Austin’s city limits and continue to explore more of Austin’s historic or newly created sites with unforgettable bike tours.

Texas Bike Tours from Selena Depaz on Vimeo.

Still looking for more creative ways to see the city? Here are some other ways to tour Austin:

PubCrawler of Austin

  • Keep Austin Weird by pedaling on the newest mobile unit — a pub on wheels! This bar on wheels explores a variety of popular drinking establishments based on tour routes around the Capitol, the market district, the warehouse district and Barton Springs.

Austin Detours – Ultimate Austin Scavenger Hunt

  • If you like to have fun exploring and also enjoy a good team challenge, then this part-city tour part-energetic competition is for you. This tour stops at major landmarks while playing games and gathering items, and ends with tallying up of scores for the scavenger hunt awards ceremony.

Austin Segway Tours by Gliding Revolution

  • Want to rest your feet, but still take a tour? Glide your way around the Capitol and major downtown areas on Austin’s Segway Tours, which provide the history of the city and fun sites to stop and take photos. Just be sure to keep your balance and avoid the potholes.

Live Love Paddle

  • If you want to still rest your feet but get a killer arm workout, you can paddle your way through downtown via Lady Bird Lake with this kayaking tour. Learn some local history and interesting facts with this tour while floating on downtown Austin’s beautiful body of water.

In true Austin fashion, the city keeps its tours weird, so get out and explore!



Photos courtesy of Texas Bike Tours

Texas Tai Chi touts health benefits, balance

By: J.D. Harris, Anthony Green, Julia Bernstein

With every slow, rhythmic punch and sweeping kick, the students and faculty of the University of Texas at Austin seem to feel the stress caused by life on campus melt away. While some students and faculty choose to participate in campus exercise programs such as yoga and Pilates to destress, others are turning to the Chinese martial art of tai chi to reduce their stress levels.

Jen Shipman, a UT faculty member and leader of Texas Tai Chi, an on-campus tai chi program at UT, said the Chinese martial art of tai chi helps to relax the mind and body at the end of hard work days.

“We’ve got stressful jobs and so it’s nice to have that hour break where we’re not having to think about what work we need to do and instead just focus on healing ourselves from the inside,” Shipman said.

According to Natalie Durkin, a tai chi instructor with Master Gohring’s Tai Chi & Kung Fu in Austin, tai chi is classified into five styles and each style is named after the family who taught it. The five families include the Chen, Yang, Sun, Wu, and Wu-Xiang.

The birthplace of the Chen family, who represent the historical origins of all five traditional schools of Tai Chi. Their fusion of Chinese philosophical elements with martial arts training made Tai Chi a novel art form in the 1800s.

The birthplace of the Chen family, who represent the historical origins of all five traditional schools of Tai Chi. Their fusion of Chinese philosophical elements with martial arts training made Tai Chi a novel art form in the 1800s.

Texas Tai Chi mainly focuses on the Yang style.

“It is the more upright style of tai chi where you’re staying shoulders above hips. It’s probably the most common one,” Shipman said.

Although Texas Tai Chi began only seven years ago, tai chi has been practiced for centuries.

Durkin explained that tai chi has its origin in one of the oldest Chinese legends predating the 12th century. Durkin said that according to the legend, while a monk was walking through a forest he stumbled upon a fight between a snake and a crane. As he watched the snake and the crane, he observed how each animal’s defensive behaviors benefited them and realized how complimentary and effective these defenses were against each other. Inspired by the movements of the snake and crane, the monk created tai chi, which translates to “Supreme Ultimate Fist.”

According to Durkin, tai chi differs from other martial art forms because its movements are softer than those of karate or taekwondo and its participants are not meant to expend tons of energy; instead, energy is meant to be “channeled inward for personal health.”

The philosophy of Tai Chi is one that discourages the use of outright brute force to stop an opponent’s advances. Such fighting methods are seen in Tai Chi as swaying away from the paramount natural balance of Yin and Yang. Instead, students are taught to meet brute force with softness—adapting to their opponent’s motions until their energy is exhausted or redirected.

The philosophy of Tai Chi is one that discourages the use of outright brute force to stop an opponent’s advances. Such fighting methods are seen in Tai Chi as swaying away from the paramount natural balance of Yin and Yang.

Shipman also noted that tai chi differs from other martial arts because tai chi is open to people of all ages and with varying levels of experience.

No matter age or experience, tai chi is proven to have multiple health benefits both physically and mentally.

“From my own personal experience, I can say that although I earned a black belt in taekwondo many years ago, and already had good reflexes and balance, they have been enhanced 10 fold since becoming a tai chi practitioner,” said Durkin. “I am lighter on my feet; my arthritic knees are better than they have been in years. Mentally, I have better clarity, I have the ability to see a problem from a variety of perspectives and to hang out before trying to control an outcome.”

In tai chi, it is critical to coordinate body movements with breathing.

“It’s beneficial for helping for balance. It’s beneficial for all kinds of health benefits, with your breathing, more body awareness because it’s not one of those fast paced martial art forms,” Shipman said.

UT students, Stephanie Lish and Alejandra Duarte, agree that offering tai chi classes is a benefit for UT students and faculty. They also said that they feel like Texas Tai Chi is valuable because it adds to the variety of exercise programs that UT offers.

“I know there’s people that would enjoy that,” Lish said.

“There’s a lot of people on campus so I think it’s a good idea,” Duarte said. “You have to have a lot of different things.”

Students and faculty can find Texas Tai Chi in the Student Activity Center (SAC), Dance Room (2.310) every Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

No registration required.

Keep Austin Bearded

By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec


Music blared, drinks flowed freely and hair filled the Mohawk on Feb. 20.

Nearly 1,000 people packed the downtown Austin venue for the 10th annual Come and Shave It beard competition.

The Come and Shave It event, which is organized by the Austin Facial Hair Club, is one of largest beard competitions in the country. The 2016 event attracted more than 220 competitors from all around the United States and the world.

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Kevin Becker, from East Haven, Connecticut, finished in third place in the beard under a foot category and said he came to the event because of its magnitude in the beard community.

“I just started competing last year and I heard this was a very big competition so me and a couple other guys from Connecticut, we all came down,” Becker said. “It’s been great.”

Both the Austin Facial Hair Club and the Come and Shave It event have grown in their first 10 years. The club started with four members and now has 50 dedicated members. The original event was started by Misprint magazine, a now defunct publication, and was held at Club de Ville, which is now Cheer Up Charlies. The event quickly outgrew its old venue and moved to the larger Mohawk. 

Bryan Nelson, president of the Austin club and one of the original four founders, said the event originally began as a spoof but grew in popularity. He said the city quickly embraced the event.

“I think Austin has always been a beardy place,” Nelson said. “It’s always been a more of relaxed lifestyle in Austin. You can go into a restaurant and see them in a T-shirt and jeans or something like that. The beard culture itself is pretty strong. Normally guys get pretty proud of their beard. It’s kind of fun to celebrate them.”Beards (1)

Brett Strauss, commissioner of the Facial Hair League, which helps clubs organize beard competitions, said the key to the Come and Shave It event is its dedication to philanthropy. Strauss said most of the beard clubs are set up around raising money for non-profit causes. “If it was just about the beards, I don’t think there would so much commitment and so many people traveling the way they do,” Strauss said.

Nelson said that both the club and the Come and Shave It event have helped multiple charities over the past 10 years. He said they’ve helped with Wounded Warriors, SXSW Cares and the Austin Animal Center, among others.

“We just try to help out community where we can,” Nelson said. “We try to keep it real in Austin. We’re not registered as non-profit but we operate like a non-profit … We just try to have fun and ‘Keep Austin Beard.’”

The charity aspect of the event is important, but the fun keeps the event going. Strauss said he enjoys going to the Austin event because it’s one of the biggest competitions of the year. He also said the time he spends at beard competitions remind him of his college days.

“For me it’s like going back to college for the weekend,” Strauss said. “My mother-in-law watches my kids. I take my wife. We head out of town. And we go and hang out with some wonderful people and drink beer and have fun. It’s just like going back to college. I really enjoy spending time with these people.”

The Austin club and event has helped the beard community grow and “Kept Austin Beard” for the past 10 years and they’re being rewarded for it.  Austin will host the World Beard and Mustache Championships in 2017, which Nelson is excited about.

“It’s been years in the making,” Nelson said.



Graphic Maps by: Kaylee Nemec


How Beards are Judged: A Q&A with Facial Hair League commissioner Brett Strauss

Understanding how a beard competition works is confusing. To help shave the nitty-gritty, Facial Hair League commissioner Brett Strauss discussed how competitions work.

Strauss, a former beard competition judge, discussed a variety of beard competition topics to help get a better understanding of how judging works, what judges look for and much more.


Q: How does judging work?

A: “It’s kind of like Olympic style judging, where each competitor is given a score between seven and 10 on the half-point: 7.5, 8, 8.5. You’re picking the first, second and third out of your final group for each category and you submit it and everything is calculated.”


Q: How does fan-voting work?

A: “The fan-voting is something we call ‘fantasy facial hair,’ which is like fantasy football where instead of picking players that’ll play the best, you’ll pick competitors. You’re going to pick the ones that you think are going to win first, second and third in each category. The closer you are to matching the judges themselves, the more points you get.”


Q: How many beard categories are there?

A: “I would say there are probably around 24 standard categories and there a probably just as many unique categories. The standard categories can include mustache, natural mustache, freestyle mustache, chops, beards, many different categories. Then you have the unique categories, which are things like some clubs will do world’s worst beard. Some people will do Texas red beard, salt-and-pepper for the gray and white beards. So there are some fun ones out there.”


Q: Which categories have the most competitors?

A: “Most competitions, you’re going to get 50 percent of your competitors competing in two categories. It really depends on how the clubs set them up. Usually, it’s, if you’ve got an under-12 inch full beard natural – that’s a very large group of people that have 12-inch or shorter beards. That’s probably going to be your largest group. Then, I’d say the second largest would be the 12-inch or over 12-inch full beard.”


Q: What do judges look for when judging?

A: “It depends. If you’re going for a full-beard natural then basically what you’re saying is it’s someone that does not do any type of cutting, shaving, cleaning up. It’s kind of an unruly set of people. These are people that don’t shave the cheek. They don’t shave under their neck. They just kind of let it absolutely go. So in that case, you’re actually looking for people that are more unkempt. You’re looking for length. Obviously, you want the beard to healthy. Volume helps as well. If you’re looking at another category like styled, or best-groomed beard, then you’re doing the exact opposite. You’re actually looking for people that have perfect beard shapes and have cleaned the cheek up. They have perfect straight lines that are matching.”


Photos by: Kaylee Nemec

Moovly created By: Sara Eunice Martinez

Film By: Sara Eunice Martinez

Austin Roller Derby: Texas Rollergirls Jam Way to Success

By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec


Austin roller derby scene emerges in 2001, leads to sport’s revival

Hundreds of people stand outside a southeast Austin business complex on Feb 13. Inside lays ‘The Blood Shed’ – an old warehouse building modified into a roller derby arena, where the Texas Rollergirls prepare to kick off their 14th season.

Fans cram into ‘The Blood Shed’ – standing or sitting on the concrete floor, searching for a spot to see the action, music blares, an enthusiastic emcee named ‘Chip Queso’ pumps the crowd up, and all while the Hotrod Honeys ‘bout against the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers.


Julie Hunter, owner of Medusa Skates in Austin and roller derby player for TXRD – a banked roller derby league – said the players feed off the atmosphere surrounding the games.

“When we have a ton of people it feels great,” Hunter said. “I’m really camera shy, but when I get out there I’m like ‘fuck yeah. This is awesome.’ I love it. I eat it up.”

Roller derby began in Chicago in 1935, but Austin led to the sports’ revival in 2001.

Austin has emerged as a major roller derby scene with multiple leagues including the Texas Rollergirls, who participate in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, and the TXRD – a league that participates in banked roller derby.

“It’s a really big scene,” Hunter said. “This is where the revival of roller derby got started back.”

Since the scene’s development it has added junior leagues, recreational leagues and even high schools have added the sport. There are even men’s leagues developing in Austin.

Film By: Sara Eunice Martinez

The game itself is fast, vicious and sometimes dangerous. The players say it’s a mix of football and speed skating. Two teams play in a game called a ‘bout,’ which consists of two 30 minute halves. Each team has five players on the track – one jammer, one pivot and three blockers, who help their jammer through the pack and try to prevent the other team’s jammer from scoring. The jammer scores after they make it through the opponent’s blockers and are credited points for each pass made within a two-minute period called a ‘jam’ during each half.

Jessica Duran, who goes by Virgo Vengeful and plays for the Hell Marys in the Texas Rollergirls league, said she’s seen the Austin competition increase during her 10 years of participating in the sport.

“The skill level has gotten higher and higher,” Duran said. “Everyone is getting better every year. So every year, I think I learn something new and I also really challenge my brain. As far as the game goes, the strategy is super important to the sport and learning how to tune into it.”

TexasRollergirls (1)

Duran added that the Austin scene is empowering because of the physical nature of the sport and the ability to speak your mind within leagues.

“It’s very empowering, definitely,” Duran said. “It’s a lot of very opinionated females, which is great. We might butt heads, but it’s also empowering that you can speak your mind and you’re encouraged to be you. You’re a female who cares? When someone says ‘you hit like a girl.’ ‘Yeah, I do hit like a girl. I hit very hard. You wish you could hit like that.'”

“We very much empower every girl that comes in from juniors all the way up to our rec program to our premier programs.”

Miyah Calhoon, who plays for the Honkey Tonk Heartbreakers in the Texas Rollergirls league and goes by Fender Bender, said seeing the growth of the sport down to the youth level has been special.

“It warms my heart, it really does.” Calhoon said. “To see the growth – there’s this empowerment aspect to it too … To see juniors skating today, it really does warm my heart.”

The fans cheer as the final whistle blows on Feb. 13. The Hotrod Honeys claim their first win of the season – a 293-108 clobbering of the Honkey Tonk Heartbreakers.

Both teams share high-fives despite the battle each fought. They all share in the same fun the Austin roller derby scene has created.

“It really feels like a family,” said Diane Sanson, who participates in the Texas Rollergirls recreational league. “They’re like distant relatives that are way above you, but they’re still encouraging you and telling you ‘you will get there.’ Telling you how to get there. It is more of a family. We help each other out. It’s not discouraging even if your team loses.”

Photos by: Kaylee Nemec

The Wurst Festival in Texas

It was the best of times, it was the wurst of times at this year’s 52nd annual Wurstfest, a celebration of all things German.

A group of friends joins in with the rest of the crowd by holding their cups in the air to make a toast while singing along to the traditional “Ein Prosit” song. Photo by: Erin MacInerney

A group of friends joins in with the rest of the crowd by holding their cups in the air to make a toast while singing along to the traditional “Ein Prosit” song. Photo by: Erin MacInerney

By: Morgan Bridges, Erin Griffin, Erin MacInerney, Jamie Pross

(Click to listen to the Chardon Polka Band perform live in the Stelzenplatz Biergarten at Wurstfest)

(Click to watch a first-person view of the festival)

NEW BRAUNFELS- Sprechen sie fun? Hint: say yes!

Don’t worry, you needn’t speak German to enjoy the revelry of Wurstfest, the 10-day salute to sausage.

But if you really want to delve into the culture that makes up this Oktoberfest- inspired event, knowing a few phrases will help you to fit in among the lederhosen clad festival-goers.

The small town of New Braunfels, Texas welcomes over 100,000 visitors to the festival each November.

Wurstfest Lingo-FinalThe smell of kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), strudel, schnitzel, and other dishes you may have a hard time pronouncing, waft throughout the tents of the festival grounds.

For people like Sammi Guerrero, Wurstfest is an annual family tradition.

“I have been going every year since I was born,” says Guerrero. “My whole family goes at least three days out of the ten days it is held each year.”

Guerrero’s 21-year streak (or 22 if you count the time she was still in her mother’s belly) is nothing compared to her father, Roland, who has been going every year since the early 1970’s.

Roland’s father, Larry Guerrero, has been joining the family for as long as he can remember. Larry may use a walker but the minute Grammy Award-winning polka artist Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra start playing, Guerrero can’t help but get up and dance.

“Everyone loves my grandpa and when they see him dancing, they can’t help but join,” says Sammi Guerrero. “I love getting to come with him each year and watch him make people smile.”

One of the Guerrero’s favorite parts of the festival is sharing a pitcher of German lager. Roland recounts when a pitcher of beer was a dollar compared to the now almost 30 dollar pitchers being sold.

While grandpa dances to the polka music, the rest of the family heads to the biergarten, part of the newly renovated Stelzenplatz hall.

With more than 30 craft beers from all over the nation and a few specialty German beers, Wurstfest is known for drinking.

Guests make it a point to collect as many plastic beer pitchers as they can down, and that crashing sound you just heard? It was a pyramid of pitchers stacked up falling to the ground, a common sight among the beer hall.

Despite the vast alcohol consumption, Wurstfest Associations members make sure that the fest is centered around good family fun.

Another important part of the festival are the traditional German clothes, lederhosen worn by men and dirndl’s worn by women.

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Click here to learn more about the history of Wurstfest


“A lot of people want to be dressed up for the event,” says Paula Kater, owner of the Kuckuck’s Nest in Fredericksburg, Texas. “Every year, sales pick up and people want to get more and more into it. Even the younger generations want to dress up.”

Kater emphasizes that the outfits she dresses her customers in are not costumes, but authentic clothing of her heritage.

“Every one is an original straight from Germany,” says Kater.

Kater was impressed to find such a large German influence in the Texas Hill Country when she arrived here from Ludwigshafen, Germany 15 years ago.

She travels all over the nation providing outfits for people attending Okterberfest events but says Wurstfest has always been her favorite.

“Wurstfest is one of the biggest,” says Kater. “It is the elite of all of them, even the ones up north.”

Lederhosen & Dirndl-Final


(A supplementary video from Wurstfest. How to sing one of the favorite songs, Ein Prosit!)