Last year's successes are paying off for two Moffat County High School academic clubs, both of which are using their newfound momentum to train new members while boosting the performance of older members.
"Last year was our learning year," said Curtis Lorio, 16, a second-year MCHS speech and debate competitor. "This year is our dominating year.
"That's what we hope to do as the Bulldogs - stomp our ground and show them who's boss."
At a competition Nov. 7 and 8 in Montrose, the team brought home at total of 27 trophies and placed first overall. The latter achievement has put the group on a trajectory to improve its performance from last year, speech and debate coach Eric Hansen said.
In contrast, the team secured first place only once last year.
The group's membership has also grown, nearly doubling from 2007.
"I think success has brought us more students," Hansen said. "The more success we've had, the more the school knows (and) the more students are willing to participate in the event."
The team improved last year in individual and group performances.
One member qualified to a national competition last year, and 14 team members qualified for a statewide competition.
This year's interest in the club has been the highest in Hansen's five-year tenure at the high school, he said.
Team captain Janna Thompson, a MCHS junior, plans to make the most of that new membership.
Her goal this year, she said, will be to "create a new foundation" with its new members while also helping its more seasoned competitors improve in their events.
Members of the MCHS chapters Distributive Education Clubs of America and Future Business Leaders of America have a similar strategy.
"We've definitely taken steps to educating our new members on what competitions are like and what their events will be like," said Desiree Holland, 18, MCHS senior and DECA/FBLA member.
The two clubs, which share membership, have about the same number of active members as it did in 2007.
But already, the group has topped last year's performance.
At the group's first FBLA competition Nov. 7 and 8 in Glenwood, seven students brought home a total of 12 trophies.
All seven competitors placed in the top four slots in their events.
"We've never been to a competition where everybody placed in the top four," said Krista Schenck, DECA and FBLA adviser.
Recent successes are due in part to last year's achievements, she added.
This spring, the team sent four members to an international DECA competition.
Having group members that have a couple years under their belts has helped too, Schenck said.
The group's next event, a DECA district competition, is scheduled for Dec. 14 and 15 in Grand Junction.