The MCHS Speech and Debate Team heads to the state tournament March 13 and 14 at Highlands Ranch High School and the national-qualifying tournament March 27 and 28 at Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins. The national tournament is in June in Birmingham, Ala.
MCHS Speech and Debate Team's State Qualifiers
Seniors Gavin Thompson and Michael Zehner
Juniors Greg Blackstun and Brodie Schulze
Seniors Sam Gilman and Sam Leonard
Junior Holly Bergman and senior Cody McClanahan
National Extemporaneous Speaking:
Senior Derrick Ferguson
Freshman Ryan Zehner
Foreign Extemporaneous Speaking:
Sophomore Ryan Neece
Public Forum Debate:
Seniors Jason Steed and Nora Cazares
Junior Curtis Lorio
Senior Katie Ronis
Junior Janna Thompson
He's said it before, and he hopes to say it again: best year yet.
Eric Hansen, five-year coach of the Moffat County High School Speech and Debate Team, said his students are having another phenomenal year.
"They never cease to amaze me," Hansen said of his 40-member team. "Every year, I think we've peaked, and they come back and blow me away."
Hansen, along with assistant coaches and fellow MCHS teachers Casey Kilpatrick and Daphne Stroh, already have helped 16 students qualify to compete at the state tournament, one student qualify for the national tournament and another place high at the "biggest speech tournament in the nation."
"We've been successful at tournaments that, in past years, we never would have been successful at," Hansen said. "For us to take 16 kids to state is unbelievable."
The MCHS team competed in the regional state-qualifying tournament Feb. 20 and 21 at Grand Junction High School and won second place in its region for the second year in a row. Qualifying 16 students for state is a tie for the record among Western Slope schools.
"It's definitely been the most successful season Moffat County has had probably in the last 10 years," Hansen said. "Every year we've gotten better and better."
Senior Michael Zehner and junior Curtis Lorio helped that tradition along with major accomplishments in past weeks.
Zehner qualified for nationals Jan. 31 at the National-Qualifying Congress in Longmont.
All other speech events have a separate upcoming national-qualifying tournament, so the team could qualify more competitors.
Zehner also qualified for state in policy debate with senior Gavin Thompson.
Zehner is excited for the opportunity to compete at the national level in the same event he qualified for last year.
"It's such a good feeling that it wasn't a fluke, and I can go back and represent my district and my state," Zehner said.
He placed in the top 48 of 320 competitors who made it to the national level.
"Hopefully I can match that, if not beat it," Zehner said.
Now in his fourth year, Zehner is nostalgic for the time he's spent with the speech team.
"It's a weird feeling," he said. "I've done it for so long that it seems like such a big part of my life.
"I've made it a big part of my high school life. : It's a strange feeling to know these are my last tournaments."
If Zehner is looking back, Lorio is looking forward. A second-year member, Lorio is thrilled to have placed in the top 18 among 164 students in the drama competition Feb. 12 to 14 at the Berkeley Forensics Invitational in California.
Lorio said he beat out the current state drama champ, which is "a huge honor."
"It was some of the hardest competition ever," Lorio said.
Lorio also qualified for state in the same competition. He'll compete at the national-qualifying tournament in drama and duo interpretation.
"I'm hoping to go to nationals," Lorio said. "That'd be a great experience going to Birmingham, Ala. But, anything can happen."