Five Moffat County High School students returned this week from the National Forensics League’s national tournament in Dallas.
The event, which ran from June 14 to 18, hosted 2,600 students from all 50 states.
MCHS students Matt Balderston, Collin Dilldine, Ben East, Derek Maiolo and Ryan Zehner attended the tournament after qualifying at different events throughout the spring semester.
Casey Kilpatrick, assistant coach for the MCHS speech and debate team, said the students did well against strong competition.
“The kids did pretty good considering it’s the biggest tournament in the country,” Kilpatrick said. “They see competition from all over the place and, with that in mind, they did really well.”
Teammates Dilldine and Zehner, who qualified as juniors, received six ballots out of a possible 12 in six rounds of cross-examination debate.
Kilpatrick explained the scoring system.
Participants compete in a minimum of six preliminary rounds during the tournament, and have the potential to win 12 ballots. Two judges evaluate each round, and each judge awards their ballot separately. In other words, a student or team can win two, one or zero ballots per round.
To advance to the finals, teams must win eight ballots out of 12.
Teammates Balderston and East, who qualified as sophomores, won two ballots out of a possible 12 in cross-examination debate.
Maiolo, who qualified as a freshman, received no ballots in House of Representatives debate.
Kilpatrick said winning was beside the point.
“They would have liked to have done better, but they also understood that a lot of this was just learning and getting a better idea so when they go back next year, they’ll be able to do better,” he said.
Zehner said there’s no reason to spin the results.
“I think we did fairly well,” he said of his partnership with Dilldine. “Six and six? I don’t think that’s a disappointing finish as juniors.
“I think the whole ‘learning experience’ thing kind of downplays the part that I’m proud of, which is breaking even. We didn’t have a losing record.”
Balderston, on the other hand, hinted that Kilpatrick’s assessment is appropriate.
“Ben and I had a pretty good learning experience,” he joked. “We went two and 10.”
The cross-examination teams debated the pros and cons of U.S. troop presence in several foreign countries.
The team of Balderston and East won both of their ballots during a single round, in which they argued in favor of drone strikes in Afghanistan.
Dilldine and Zehner said they debated troop levels in South Korea and the Middle East.
Dilldine said the MCHS students competed against a fair representation of U.S. states.
“We hit teams from Hawaii, Missouri, Oklahoma, Penn-
sylvania, Idaho and California,” he said. “We hit the spectrum.”
Kilpatrick said the students went to nationals with realistic expectations.
“We have a really strong debate team, so usually when we go to a tournament, especially one within the state, our kids expect to do really well,” Kilpatrick said. “At this tournament, they just wanted to learn from it. And so, they went in completely relaxed and had a lot of fun.
“I can’t remember the last tournament when I saw all of our debaters have fun with everything that was going on around them. That was really nice to see.”
On Sunday, Balderston, Dilldine, East and Zehner will leave Craig again to attend a four-week speech-and-debate camp at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan.
There, they will study next year’s topic for cross-examination debate: space exploration and development beyond the mesosphere.
In July, Maiolo will attend a two-week speech-and-debate camp in Wyoming.
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