Speech team wins state
By Brielle Schaeffer, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: March 18, 2013
The Jackson Hole High School Speech and Debate team capped an undefeated season with a state championship over the weekend.
The team, coached by Londe Gagnon and Mark Houser, led the other 3A schools with 32 sweepstakes points, followed by Powell and Star Valley, who tied for second with 23 points each, and third-place Cody, with 20 points. The team took home many honors and individual championships, including recognition for Houser as 3A Coach of the Year.
“This year we knew by the time finals happened it was going to be a very close contest,” Houser said. “The entire team was on the edge of their seats during the announcements. We’re just ecstatic. It was a very exciting moment to be part of that experience.
Jackson brought 15 students — two seniors and 13 juniors — and advanced more than half of its competitors to final rounds Saturday. Other teams averaged about 15 percent of their students advancing to final rounds, Houser said.
Students Hannah Collins and Jake Ethington took the overall and 3A championship crowns home in public forum debate. The two also qualified for the National Forensic League national tournament March 9. The duo was the only team of 31 to go through preliminary rounds undefeated.
Bryan Checker, a seasoned debater, brought home top honors in extemporaneous speaking.
Asa Moore received third place in extemporaneous speaking.
Cormac Mullin earned first place in Congressional Debate. Natalie Palmquist won second place.
Matt Boney and Ethington also advanced to the final rounds of congress.
Jackson’s culminating-round qualifiers were Halle Wright and Kelly Herman, who placed seventh in duet interpretation. Gretchen and Natalie Palmquist broke to semifinals in duet, while Sierra Lawson reached semifinals in poetry interpretation.
The team’s continued success was impressive because the nature of the competition is mental, and its judging subjective, Houser said.
“In speech and debate, hard work does not always manifest in the results for which you would hope,” he said. “Some of those components are out of your control.”
The team’s win represents an “extremely diligent attention” to its craft, he said.
Perhaps the highlight of the individual awards was senior team captain Marlee Miller’s Ambassador Award.
She was selected as one of only six students by coaches across the state who nominate students who exemplify good sportsmanship and competitive spirit.
“To know your students are moving through the world in a kind and generous fashion is rewarding as coach,” Houser said. “Really, in many ways it was as much a highlight as winning state.”
This is the second year in a row Jackson won the state meet and that Houser was recognized as 3A Coach of the Year.
Collins, Ethington, Checker, Billy Frank, Gretchen and Natalie Palmquist, and Lawson now start preparation for the National Forensic League National Tournament in June in Birmingham, Ala.