Top row, from left, Moffat County High School students Matt Balderston, Cullen Dilldine, Skyler Leonard and Ben East qualified for a state speech and debate event at a district competition Feb. 24 and 25. Morgan Carrico, bottom left, and Rose Howe, also qualified for the state event, scheduled for March 16 and 17 in Fort Collins.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Top row, from left, Moffat County High School students Matt Balderston, Cullen Dilldine, Skyler Leonard and Ben East qualified for a state speech and debate event at a district competition Feb. 24 and 25. Morgan Carrico, bottom left, and Rose Howe, also qualified for the state event, scheduled for March 16 and 17 in Fort Collins.

MCHS speech and debate team sending six competitors to state

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Moffat County High School Speech and Debate

At a glance ...

• Six Moffat County High School speech and debate students are headed to state.

• The students qualified at a district competition Feb. 24 and 25 in Durango.

• The state competition is scheduled for March 16 and 17 at Fort Collins High School.

• Co-coach: Caliber of competition is unknown.

Quotable

“We value winning, but it’s also about the learning experience they get from competing.”

—Casey Kilpatrick, Moffat County High School speech and debate co-coach, on a state competition March 16 and 17 in Fort Collins

Qualifying for state speech and debate competition is a tradition at Moffat County High School that spans longer than co-coach Eric Hansen can remember.

“It’s been a long time since Moffat County hasn’t taken somebody to state,” said Hansen, also an MCHS social studies teacher.

The team will continue the tradition later this month.

Juniors Morgan Carrico, Ben East, Matt Balderston and Rose Howe, along with seniors Skyler Leonard and Cullen Dilldine, earned a berth at state during a district competition Feb. 24 and 25 in Durango.

Qualifying for the competition comes on the heels of another achievement.

During an event at the University of California-Berkeley in February, Dilldine and his debate partner Ryan Zehner, an MCHS senior, went toe-to-toe with other debaters and clinched a record-breaking finish for the school, Hansen said.

Zehner finished 15th out of about 470 competitors and qualified for a national speech and debate event.

Debate will remain a consistent theme for the group at state, which takes place March 16 and 17 at Fort Collins High School.

East and Balderston are competing together in cross-examination debate.

The pair took fourth place at state last year and “we’ve been putting our entire year’s worth of work into getting to state,” East said.

Carrico and Leonard will team up to compete in public forum debate, which is a “layman’s type of debate,” Leonard said.

“… Your cases have to be very understandable and yet, at the same time, persuasive to win.”

It’s too early to say what kind of competition the students will face when they travel to Fort Collins.

“At this point, we have no idea what other schools have qualified or what teams from other schools have qualified,” co-coach Casey Kilpatrick said. “… So it’s hard to predict or to set expectations on how the kids should do when really we have no idea what set of circumstances they’re going to encounter.”

Regardless of their competitors’ skills, Kilpatrick, also an MCHS English teacher, believes the event has broader implications than trophies or awards.

Speech and debate events teach participants a range of skills, from public speaking and rhetoric to higher-level thinking, he said.

“We value winning, but it’s also about the learning experience they get from competing,” he said.

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