Moffat County High School Speech and Debate state qualifiers:
Ryan Neece, junior: Public Forum debate
Zeb Strickland, junior: Public Forum debate
Skyler Leonard, sophomore: Public Forum debate
John Kirk, sophomore: Public Forum debate
Mandi Ellgen, junior: Cross-examination debate
Karissa Maneotis, junior: Cross-examination debate
Ben East, freshman: Cross-examination debate
Matt Balderston, freshman: Cross-examination debate
Brodie Schulze, senior: Cross-examination debate
Greg Blackstun, senior: Cross-examination debate
Ryan Zehner, sophomore: Cross-examination debate
Collin Dilldine, sophomore: Cross-examination debate
Curtis Lorio, senior: Dramatic interpretation
It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Moffat County Speech and Debate Team.
But as seniors Brodie Schulze and Janna Thompson hoisted the district sweepstakes trophy above their heads on the stage in the Moffat County High School auditorium Saturday, it was a debate dynasty that was on their mind.
The MCHS Speech and Debate team qualified 13 students for the upcoming state tournament during the district competition in Craig on Friday and Saturday.
Coach Eric Hansen said he felt nothing but pride as he announced his team of 22 students as the sweepstakes winners.
“I could not be prouder of these kids,” Hansen said. “Last year they graduated 14 seniors, and for them to come back with new kids is really an accomplishment. The last two weeks in practice, the kids knew we won the last two years, and they just wanted to win that trophy again.”
Eleven schools and more than 200 students from as far away as Ouray and Durango filled the high school’s cafeteria Saturday, prepared with pillows, blankets and endless snacks.
The day started before 8 a.m. Saturday and ended after 6 p.m. when the students learned who had qualified for the state tournament, which takes place March 12 and 13 at Douglas County High School in Castle Rock.
It was qualifying for state that was on everyone’s mind throughout the day, especially the young Moffat County team that sent a district record 19 students to the state tournament in 2009.
Hansen said 14 of those students were seniors, leaving the possibility of success in 2010 uncertain.
But competitive aspects aside, Hansen said the experience of being on the team and learning to communicate with peers is valuable in itself.
“They learn so many skills,” he said. “Their test scores go up. Their grades get better. The educational benefits of the debate aspect are just amazing.”
For Thompson, who competes in dramatic interpretation and the occasional debate, her 10-minute monologue is an extension of her own beliefs and confidence.
“Yellow Wallpaper” is told from the point of view of a woman who is in an insane asylum for standing up for her beliefs.
“She stood up for what she believed in, and it costs you,” Thompson, a team captain, said.
At the awards ceremony, Thompson was named an alternate for the state tournament, while her teammate Curtis Lorio qualified by placing sixth in drama.
“It shows you how to be humble,” said Thompson, who plans to attend acting school in California next year. “It reduces your fear of losing.”
The debate team of juniors Ryan Neece and Zeb Strickland didn’t experience any losses Friday and Saturday.
They finished an undefeated tournament by winning a public forum debate against two girls from Central High School in Grand Junction, persuading the judge that organized political lobbying does not do more harm than good.
The team of Skyler Leonard and John Kirk also finished the day with four wins and no losses in the public forum event.
Four MCHS teams qualified for state in the cross-examination event. The teams of Ben East and Matt Balderston, Brodie Schulze and Greg Blackstun, Karissa Maneotis and Mandi Ellgen, and Ryan Zehner and Collin Dilldine all finished 3-1 and joined in as the team placed the sweepstakes trophy back in the school’s glass case for another year.
“I think speech and debate has a tremendous future here,” Hansen said. “Hopefully the school district will continue to support the program and see the success these kids have had.”
Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org.