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Rebuilding a foundation

MCHS speech and debate team eyes upcoming district tournament

Alex Bulla, a Moffat County High School freshman, and Mackenzi Griffin, a sophomore, practice the skit “Self Defense Against Fresh Fruit” by Monty Python’s Flying Circus after school Thursday. The two will perform the skit for the speech and debate district competition Feb. 26 and 27 at the high school.

Team seeks coaches

Speech and debate coach Eric Hansen is looking for judges for the district tournament Feb. 26 and 27 hosted by Moffat County High School.

Those interested should call Hansen at 826-6590.

There were former soccer players and freshmen football players. There were aspiring thespians, writers and politicians.

A computer lab at Moffat County High School housed an amalgam of students Thursday afternoon, from jocks to bookworms, who had all come together for speech and debate team practice.

The group of 22 students collaborated, researched and rehearsed for their upcoming district tournament, scheduled for Feb. 26 and 27 at MCHS.

But it will take a lot more than just knowing how to argue to be successful at the tournament.

Just ask freshmen Mike Story.

"My teachers told me I would be good at it," Story said of joining the debate team. "Because I like to argue. Mostly with my parents."

He said learning to be successful at debate tournaments is a new skill.

"You can't just walk up there and argue about anything," he said. "It's a lot different than I expected.

I've been playing football since I can remember, and this is totally different. But, I'm learning to speak better."

He learns by watching and taking feedback from his fellow debaters, using teamwork to supplement a mainly individual sport.

He learns from older, more experienced debaters, like junior Ryan Neece, who had recently returned from a national circuit tournament in Berkeley, Calif., with seven of his teammates.

"Last year was definitely our legacy year," Neece said. "We had a lot of seniors and we held a lot of power. This year is kind of rebuilding."

He said the team fares well at local and regional tournaments but meets challenges at national circuit tournaments like Berkeley.

"It was epic," debater Skyler Leonard said of the trip to California. "There were teams from all over the country, teams that were the top of their districts. It was a learning experience more than anything — you learn how to lose. But it will prepare us for districts."

The debaters compete in one of three events. There is public forum debate, cross-examination and Lincoln-Douglas, which all have different topics and formats.

Each student has a partner they practice with to challenge each other between tournaments.

For cross-examination debates, a team of two has to be prepared to counter any argument that the first team presents.

They rely on thousands of sheets of research papers and information and have only a few minutes to gather their arguments, which focus on policies and economics.

"You really learn time management," Matt Balderston said. "And how to really answer to people."

Debate captain and senior Brodie Schulze said the five minutes the teams have to gather their arguments seem like nothing at all.

"You have to learn to think quickly," Schulze said. "There are 100 different lines you could pick, but you have to go with the best ones."

But it's not all argument and rebuttal.

The "speech" part entails dramatic performances, such as Alex Bulla and Mackenzi Griffin's duo sketch they were rehearsing Thursday afternoon.

The duo event requires two people to perform a scene, playing several different characters, while facing the audience instead of one another.

Bulla and Griffin chose to go the comedic route, portraying a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch complete with British accents and portrayals of fatal attacks with raspberries and bananas.

"It's fun," Bulla said of her first year on the team. "You get to travel a lot and meet a lot of cool people. And it's competitive."

Moffat County also is represented well beyond the district level.

Senior Curtis Lorio usually places at the state level and recently qualified for nationals for the second year in a row.

He said he's played soccer, run track and played football, but it was the debate team that was most fulfilling and provided a strong basis for his aspirations in business management.

"This is a family, and we don't just compete against one another," Lorio said. "We don't try to go out and just win every time.

"It's about working together to build the fundamentals as a family so that we can go out and win. It's about having the confidence and the strength to believe in yourself."