Thursday at the Craig Branch of the Moffat County Libraries, five Moffat County High School students were acting like the teenagers they are.
They joked and laughed, teasing one another and raising their voices.
But every once in a while one of their voices would rise above all the others, articulating an argument on health care reform, Medicare or poverty levels.
Engaging in high-spirited debate is something at which Ryan Neece, Curtis Lorio, Ryan Zehner, Greg Blackstun and Brodie Schulze all excel.
And when each of the five step in front of judges at the National Forensics League tournament in June in Kansas City, Mo., his competitive, passionate and expressive qualities will all show through.
The MCHS speech and debate team is sending the most students in its history to the national tournament, including the first debate team of Blackstun and Schulze.
The two seniors have been competing in the cross-examination event together for four years, arguing in more than 300 rounds.
“It’s pretty awesome, just the fact that we had worked so hard for it all four years,” Schulze said. “And, pretty consistently, we’ve done a good job. It just shows that the work you put into it really pays off. You have to know your case really well to win it.”
Schulze also was named Student of the Year in the northwest district, an honor that coach Eric Hansen said is well-earned.
“Really, he’s coached our policy debate teams,” Hansen said. “He’s taken them over and taken them under his wing. A lot of the success Ryan (Zehner) and Collin (Dilldine) had was because of Brodie’s help. He’s just so helpful to those kids and so mature and responsible. I’m so glad a kid like that can win the award. He really has been a blessing for the last four years.”
As for Schulze and Black
stun’s success, Hansen sees it as an indicator of the strength of the debate program and the work ethic of the two students.
“They are a really good match as teammates,” he said. “Just the way they work … I don’t really know how to describe it. They’re super intense.”
Thursday, between jokes and arguments, Blackstun turned serious as he spoke about the bond with his teammate and the reason for their success.
“The reason is because Brodie and I are confident in ourselves and what we do,” Blackstun said. “There are a lot of uptight kids in competition. They’re so tense, and we’re just kind of laid back.”
“It’s because we want to win, but it doesn’t really matter if we do,” Schulze said.
“Because we learn from it,” Blackstun finished.
Debate is not the only aspect of the national tournament, however.
Senior Lorio was first to qualify in the drama event, and junior Neece qualified in international extemporaneous, which is when a topic is chosen at random and the student has to speak for seven minutes about that issue.
Sophomore Ryan Zehner qualified for nationals for the first time in national extemporaneous, following in the footsteps of his brother Michael, who is now a freshman at the University of Colorado.
Michael went to nationals for three years.
“I don’t feel the need to fill his shoes,” Ryan said. “He helped me understand everything I know about debating. But it’s so ridiculously vast; there’s just no way to understand it all. The national champions don’t even know it all. Right now, anyone has a chance.”
Hansen said he was proud of the younger students for their achievement and hailed it as an indicator of a strong future for the MCHS speech program.
“It’ll be a good learning experience for the younger kids,” Hansen said. “And I think the three seniors have a chance at achieving something great.”
Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org.