MCHS speech and debate team excels at home tournament |

MCHS speech and debate team excels at home tournament

Ben McCanna
Moffat County High School sophomore Matt Balderston makes his argument about a piece of legislation during mock congress Friday at the home speech and debate tournament. During congress, students take turns delivering speeches in affirmation and negation on bills and resolutions submitted by different schools.
Ben McCanna

John Kirk, a Moffat County High School junior, had a pat assessment of the speech and debate team’s weekend performance.

“We kicked some butt,” Kirk said.

On Friday and Saturday, teams from nine western Colorado high schools descended on MCHS to participate in the Moffat County Bulldog Invitational speech and debate tournament.

MCHS students led the scores.

Coach Eric Hansen said he was happy with the outcome.

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“We won the cross-examination debate, we won the public-forum debate, we won the national extemporaneous (debate) and we won three out of the four congress houses,” Hansen said.

Hansen said MCHS students amassed enough points to win the tournament, but a technicality prevented MCHS from taking the trophy.

“The home team is not allowed to win,” he said. “So, we didn’t technically win the tournament, but we had enough points to win.”

Instead, first-, second- and third-place honors went to Grand Junction Central High School, Montrose High School and Fruita Monument High School, respectively.

Kirk said he wasn’t disappointed by the lack of official recognition for his team.

“It’s just how it works,” Kirk said of the rule. “We didn’t get the trophy, but we know we’re really successful because anywhere we go, we usually win.”

Kirk took first place in the public forum debate along with partner Skyler Leonard. Kirk and Leonard debated a resolution in favor of U.S. offshore drilling.

Kirk said personal beliefs and opinions do not play a role in debating.

“You have to debate on both sides,” he said. “So whether or not it’s what you believe, you still have to write a case for it or you’re simply unprepared.”

Junior Ryan Zehner, who won top honors in the national extemporaneous debate, cross examination debate and student congress debates, agreed that personal beliefs have little bearing on debate performance.

“Often times, I’ll chose the side that I can do best on, even if it’s not necessarily what I believe,” Zehner said.

Zehner said members of the speech and debate team need to be versed in a variety of topics, domestic and international.

“We really have to keep up with everything,” he said.

Zehner said he uses MCHS library databases and publications like The Economist to stay current.

“Google is also huge,” he said of his news sources.

Junior Collin Dilldine took first place in the international extemporaneous debate, and shared first place in the cross examination debate with teammate Zehner.

Dilldine said he spends 20 to 30 minutes every night reading Internet news outlets like and

The team’s next tournament will take place Nov. 12 and 13 at Cherry Creek.

“That will be a big test for us,” Dilldine said. “Denver teams provide a whole new level of competition.”

Zehner said he’s optimistic about the team’s chances.

“We have a really strong team this year,” Zehner said. “I’m just looking forward to seeing what the season brings.”

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