Moffat County High School speech team starts season strong |

Moffat County High School speech team starts season strong

Members of the Moffat County High School speech and debate team, including, back from left, juniors Trey Choice and Chris Kling and freshmen Pearl Wyman and Michael Hough, peer through the trophies won by the group in years past, while sophomore Jake Stewart, front, wields the team's congressional gavels. The team already has seen a strong start to this year's season, most recently winning a tournament in Grand Junction.
Andy Bockelman

— The ability to talk is one most humans have mastered by the time they enter school. Conversely, speaking intelligently is a talent that doesn’t come quite as easily, and even those who apply themselves to the skill set always can continue to improve.

The members of the Moffat County High School speech and debate team have begun their season with a promising outset. A first-place overall finish at their most recent meet at Grand Junction High School showed what the group is capable of, as they competed in a variety of events testing their proficiency for communicating.

Some events are more performance oriented, like dramatic and humorous interpretations. Sophomore Jake Stewart’s piece is a monologue from Stephen Chbosky’s book “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” in which the teenage main character comes to terms with some darkness in his past.

“It’s a really good drama to do, but I need to present it with more of a fluctuation,” he said. “Now that I’ve performed it once, I know it’s not so much about him being angry but more about him being sad. In drama, the ultimate thing is to get someone to cry, so if you get a judge to cry, I’m pretty sure you can get first.”

Freshman Pearl Wyman’s specialty is original oratory, her topic a self-prepared comparison of arranged marriages in the Eastern Hemisphere and more modern weddings and the benefits of both.

“I have a friend in India, and his parents had an arranged marriage,” she said. “I just started thinking about how the divorce rate for arranged marriages is 4 percent in the world, and for love marriages, it’s 60 percent. There’s a lot of statistics.”

Wyman said she will get the chance to tweak her piece week by week as she strives to make it a sounder presentation for future meets.

The rules for other events mean competitors have to be on their toes, ready to talk about any subject of national or international interest in extemporaneous speaking. Likewise, new topics for argument are at hand in events like public forum and congressional debate.

Most team members participate in congress, but it can be tough to get a word in edgewise as competitors each try to speak as much as possible about hypothetical bills.

“There was one bill about reforming public education so that schools are taught regionally, so, like, for us, we would only learn about agriculture and simple math, and I had a really good argument against that,” Wyman said.

Juniors Trey Choice and Chris Kling have partnered in public forum since last year, and they have developed their own style in that time. They each take one side of the debate and confer with how best to argue against opposition during each round.

“By the end of it, I know more about the neg(ative) side and he knows more about the pro side or vice versa,” Choice said.

Their familiarity with each other helps them out a lot, Kling said.

“If one of us needs something in the middle of it, we can help out or write notes to each other,” he said. “We’re a really good team, I think.”

The preparation time for the speech and debate team members to gather information, hone their reasoning and practice their delivery is much greater than it was last year. Although MCHS won’t be able to host a home tournament for the team because of difficulties in arranging it with other schools, thanks to the new block schedule, the activity was reinstated as a regular class after several years of being purely extracurricular.

Teacher Casey Kilpatrick said having team members able to work during class time has allowed them to better prepare what they need to be most effective in meets.

“It gives them the opportunity to research, write, think critically and speak fluently, eloquently and persuasively,” he said.

Students include those in their first year and veterans who have been part of the team for years, but all of them get more adept as the school year continues, Kilpatrick said.

“Some of the newer kids have struggled because of the learning curve and they’re not used to the kind of thinking that it requires,” he said. “It’s hard, but you’ve got to think ahead to four years and think about how great it’s going to make you at everything else.”

For some, the changes in their speaking skills have been noticeable right away. Freshman Michael Hough said just having a simple conversation is much easier for him than it used to be before speech and debate.

“I want to be able to get my point across and have an emotional effect on the person who’s hearing me,” he said.

In a community that places a great deal of emphasis on athletics, such an activity is one that allows the academically inclined to push themselves as they head toward adulthood, Kilpatrick said.

“I really believe that speech and debate is the best thing a student could do to prepare them for his or her career,” he said.

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or

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