The Saratoga Sun -

Tired ... but happy

After State, speech team eyes Nationals


Keith McLendon

Members of a sleepy but satisfied CCSD#2 speech team show off their state championship sweepstakes trophy. The team arrived in Saratoga at about 1:15 a.m. Sunday morning from the state tournament in Buffalo.

The Carbon County School District No. 2 (CCSD#2) Speech and Debate team nabbed the 1A/2A state championship, bringing home yet another sweepstakes trophy. The team's last state title was in 2014.

"The restaurant was very loud afterwards," said head coach Jake Mickelsen of his team's positive attitude. "I couldn't be prouder as to how it all turned out."

Encampment Senior Jacob Dickinson is the 2016 Wyoming State Champion in Original Oratory, and placed fifth in the state in Dramatic Interpretation.

"His piece was a bit of a risk and raised questions of whether he was allowed to interact with the audience like he did," said Mickelsen, but the judges allowed Dickinson to go about the audience and demonstrate the power of emotion.

Saratoga senior Rowan (Nina) Ford placed third in Lincoln-Douglas debate. Ford's only loss in elimination rounds was to the eventual state champion in that event (the second place finisher, being on the other side of the bracket, never faced Ford).

Saratoga sophomores Larissa Ford and Robin Gloss, who compete in the two-person event of Public Forum debate, reached the quarter-final elimination round, where they were knocked out by the duo who eventually took the championship in that event.

In addition to these overall awards, in which all students compete together regardless of school size, the team also brought home considerable honors at the Class 1A/2A level. These were not separate competitions, but were simply scored-out based on school size.

By that reckoning, not only is Dickinson the Wyoming State Champion in Original Oratory, but he is also the Class 1A/2A champion in Dramatic Interpretation, according to assistant coach Kate Sherrod.

Rowan Ford is the 1A/2A Lincoln-Douglas Debate champion, while Larissa Ford and Robin Gloss are the 1A/2A Public Forum Debate champions.

Gloss is also the 1A/2A champion in extemporaneous speaking, while Saratoga Junior Gabrielle Clutter and Hanna home-schooled student David Freeman were in a tie for first in 1A/2A Student Congress.

Sherrod explained that these results, especially the debate results, are even more impressive than they sound.

Debaters from small schools are at a disadvantage at the tournament level not only because they don't have quite the same resources as students at bigger schools, but because they are often their team's sole competitors in their events. Bigger teams are able to pit debater against debater at practices, while lone debaters at small schools don't get to test their cases against others until they're in actual competition. The debaters who finished ahead of CCSD#2's were all from much bigger schools, Sherrod said.

"So while we're able to help our debaters write and research their cases at practices, that's nothing near as helpful as getting to practice the art of debate itself. The fact that our students beat a whole lot of others who get to run mock debates against each other several times a week – that's remarkable, and speaks to the kids having a lot of raw talent, discipline, quick-thinking ability, and guts. Sheer guts. Think about how hard it is to win an argument with your spouse or co-worker. Now imagine doing it in front of an audience. And judges. And it's not about what to have on your pizza, but over whether the U.S. should withdraw its troops from Okinawa, or has a moral obligation to promote democracy in the Middle East," said Sherrod.

"The only thing that's as hard, probably, is making an audience laugh. Or cry. Or listen attentively to a speech you wrote five minutes ago about a topic you had to research on the spot," Sherrod added.

As the team nears the season's end, Sherrod and Mickelsen happily point out that all this achievement is not happening in a vacuum. The team has received extraordinary support from the school, the administration and the community.

"Other coaches seem to struggle to get the interest, let alone the support, of their schools' activities directors, for instance. We got to brag a bit at the coaches' meeting, because Saratoga Middle High School's Activities Director, Rex Honholt, was right there at the tournament with us. He went to rounds, and saw at least one performance by every Saratoga student competing at State.

"You can't believe what that does for the kids' morale – or for ours as coaches," Sherrod said.

CCSD#2 Superintendent Dr. Jim Copeland spent considerable time watching team members at a recent tournament in Rawlins, too, along with the parents of many team members, some of whom, like Jerry and Linda Dickinson and Paula Gloss, judged rounds there.

The Dickinsons, parents of Jacob Dickinson, have traveled to judge at other tournaments, including at state, help which Mickelsen and Sherrod find this help "invaluable" because it frees them up to attend students' rounds and work with them between rounds to improve performances or tweak cases.

All of this, and the coolers that the Saratoga Booster Club has kept full with water and healthy snacks all season long, contribute to students' enthusiasm and success, the coaches added.

Based on the performances, Mickelsen, who was nominated for Coach of the Year during his first year with CCSD#2 speech, feels that there is extraordinary potential for years to come.

The team has one final tournament in its season. They will travel to Riverton Thursday to compete in the National Speech and Debate League's qualifying tournament, the winners at which get the chance to compete at the U.S. National tournament this summer.

The team will then host Speech Night in Saratoga, with refreshments and team member performances, on a date sometime after spring break.


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