Eric Hansen, coach of the Moffat County High School speech and debate team, said the 2010-11 season has been a good one so far.
“It’s been really successful,” he said. “We’ve placed at every tournament in Colorado that we’ve been to. We’ve won two rather large tournaments.”
Those tournaments were in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Grand Junction, Hansen said.
The season also included a significant honor at a tournament in Berkeley, Calif. — an event that mixed 4,000 students from 300 U.S. high schools.
“It’s basically the biggest tournament in the nation,” Hansen said of the Berkeley event. “We had two kids finish in the top 80. So, that was pretty exciting for us.”
Although the team’s 12-event regular season is drawing to a close, Hansen said there’s no time to rest.
“We’re practicing,” he said.
On March 18 and 19, nine members of the team will compete in a state championship tournament in Fort Collins. On April 1 and 2, several students will compete in a national qualifying event in Boulder.
And in June, at least one MCHS student will compete in a national championship tournament in Dallas.
MCHS junior Collin Dilldine qualified for nationals at a recent tournament in Boulder.
“Out of our whole district, out of 200 kids who competed, there were four that qualified,” Hansen said. “(Dilldine) was one of them.”
Hansen said the season’s wins aren’t surprising.
“We’re in the top 10 in the state consistently,” Hansen said of MCHS speech and debate program.
But, it wasn’t always that way, said Hansen, who has worked for the district for seven years. The program emerged from a rough patch five years ago.
“The previous coach, Jill Grimes, had competitive teams forever,” he said. “And then we lost it for a little while. But, I’d say for the past five years, we’ve had a pretty competitive team.”
The team stays busy throughout the regular season, Hansen said.
“We’ve got five hours of practice every week, and then typically for these tournaments we’re gone from Friday afternoon until Saturday at midnight,” he said. “It’s a pretty big commitment.”
For the next two weeks, however, the team doesn’t have any scheduled events, which is unusual.
“For the first time in a couple months, we’ve got a couple weekends off, so we’re going to enjoy those,” Hansen said. “It’s pretty atypical for us to have weekends off.”
Nonetheless, the team will continue to practice in anticipation of the state tournament and the national qualifier.
“It’s business as usual,” he said of the practice schedule.
Hansen said he is optimistic about his team’s chances for the national event.
“I think we’ll qualify at least five, possibly nine,” he said of his students. “We’ve got some really awesome upperclassmen right now.”
Hansen said Dilldine, the team’s early national qualifier, has come a long way.
“He’s improved so much from a freshman until now,” Hansen said. “His speaking ability and his speaking style, and his ability to persuade others has really grown.
“I just think he’s a really hard worker.”
Dilldine said the June event will be his first national tournament.
“I got close last year, but this is the first time I’ve qualified,” Dilldine said. “It felt really, really good.”
Dilldine credits his success to learning from his early mistakes and the team’s leadership.
“I think it comes from Hansen himself, and our other coach, Mr. (Casey) Kilpatrick,” Dilldine said. “Prior to them being here, I’m fairly sure that the speech team wasn’t good.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained an error. The mistake has been corrected.