Eight Moffat County High School students will be competing in national events this year in FBLA and speech and debate. Pictured, from left, are speech and debate team members Derek Maiolo, Collin Dilldine, Ryan Zehner, Matt Balderston, and Ben East, followed by FBLA members Slade Gurr, Ryan Neece and Zeb Strickland.

Photo by Ben McCanna

Eight Moffat County High School students will be competing in national events this year in FBLA and speech and debate. Pictured, from left, are speech and debate team members Derek Maiolo, Collin Dilldine, Ryan Zehner, Matt Balderston, and Ben East, followed by FBLA members Slade Gurr, Ryan Neece and Zeb Strickland.

MCHS sending 5 students to national competitions in FBLA, speech and debate

Krista Schenk said the Future Business Leaders of America program at Moffat County High School is making history.

In June, three MCHS students will participate in an FBLA National Competition

“This is the first time,” she said of MCHS’ presence at FBLA’s annual national event.

That same month, MCHS will get national attention in Dallas when five of its students attend the National Forensics League’s national tournament.

MCHS seniors Slade Gurr, Ryan Neece and Zeb Strickland qualified for FBLA nationals in late April.

Juniors Collin Dilldine and Ryan Zehner, sophomores Matt Balderston and Ben East, and freshman Derek Maiolo qualified for nationals in speech and debate at different events throughout the spring.

FBLA, as it exists today at MCHS, is fairly new. However, the club’s history at the school goes back decades.

“We had it in the ‘80s, and then it went away,” Schenk said. “And then, I started it five years ago during my second year (at MCHS).”

The national event takes place between June 27 and July 1 in Orlando, Fla. One hundred teams — two teams from each state — will compete.

Neece said it was unclear which Colorado school will attend the event with MCHS because the team that qualified for the spot dropped out.

Neece said FBLA shouldn’t be confused with speech and debate.

“It’s an academic activity that focuses less on argumentation and more on professional development, like business characteristics, management, that type of thing,” he said. “We deal a lot more with how to run a business and what you need to be a businessperson, less than arguing, debating or speaking.”

Every year, FBLA focuses on a particular topic, Neece said. This year’s topic, green energies in business, will be discussed at length at nationals.

“We’ll do speeches on alternative energies and whether or not they’re good for businesses in the United States,” he said. “Every other competitor is also doing the same thing with their own different viewpoint.

“So, then the judges determine which one of us has the best viewpoint, which one of us is the most persuasive and which one of us has the best style.”

Speech and debate coach Eric Hansen said the National Forensics League’s National Tournament takes place June 13 through 18 in Dallas.

Hansen said he’s not sure if five MCHS students going to nationals is a record.

“It’s the most in the last 10 years,” he said. “I don’t really know historically before that, though.”

Hansen said the annual tournament provides tough competition for his students.

“Although they have a chance to succeed, it’s more about learning,” he said.

Assistant coach Casey Kilpatrick agreed.

“That’s how we measure their success,” he said. “It’s not how far they go, but how much they learn on that level that they can apply to next year and be better for that season.”

MCHS Principal Thom Schnellinger said he’s not surprised to have eight students competing in national events.

“We have amazing kids,” he said. “We’ve always known that.”

All the same, Schnellinger acknowledged the hard work of the coaches and students.

“Those guys are full-on the whole time, traveling everywhere,” he said. “We push the kids hard, and they absolutely rose to the occasion.”

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