As a freshman, Gavin Thompson decided to give the Speech and Debate Team a try. Now, in his second year competing, he's hooked.
"I just like thinking," the Moffat County High School sophomore said. "It just allows me to focus academically and to use my mind."
Thompson's been using his brain preparing for his cross examination debate competition with his partner, sophomore Michael Zehner, since the beginning of the season.
In post-season action, he and his Bulldog teammate's hard work is coming to fruition.
He and Zehner placed 10th at the state speech tournament March 16 and 17 at Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins. Junior Emily Norris placed 10th in poetry interpretation. Sophomore Derrick Ferguson and freshman Greg Blackstun also competed but did not place.
Speech advisor Eric Hansen is pleased with the students' state-level performance. Last year, no Moffat County competitors advanced to the final rounds. Thompson and Zehner made it to the quarter-finals, and Norris to the semifinals.
"It's really nice to see improvement," Hansen said. "It's nice to see them understand the events and really succeed."
Norris said she enjoys competing with the Speech and Debate Team because the activities are more personal than those during school hours.
"Everyone on the team works really hard," Norris said. "So when you do well, you really feel good about that."
Seventeen Moffat County students compete again Friday and Saturday in Longmont. Thompson said he's nervous but excited.
"It's a national qualifying tournament," he said. "I feel like we've grown a lot, and I really want to see how far we've come."
Hansen said he's happy with the number of students he's taking to the tournament, enough to compete in twice as many categories as last year. The number of points the school earns throughout the year determines how many students a school can take.
Students who place in the top two of their respective event advance to the national competition in June in Witchita, Kan. Hansen said if a Moffat County student advances, it would be the first time in several years.
Zehner is hoping the work he and Thompson have put in researching their debate topic will pay off this weekend.
And the speech and debate experience is rewarding enough itself. He stays up on current events and gains a college resume booster.
"And actually getting in the round and testing your knowledge against theirs," Zehner said. "You see who can explain it the best and argue it the best. It's a rush."
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.