2020 National Merit Finalists

Josh Hansen

The Jackson Hole High School speech and debate team hasn’t missed a step since competitions have moved online this year.

“As an organization we are learning to adjust and thrive in a new format of Speech and Debate that promotes safety as a top priority,” Londe Gagnon, who coaches the team with Peggy Gagnon, said in a statement following the team’s first tournaments of the season earlier this month.

In its first two full-squad tournaments — one hosted by Evanston High School on Nov. 13-14, the other at Casper College on Nov. 22-23 — the team took second place both times.

Newcomers to the team also squared off against 10 other schools in a novice-only tournament held Nov. 6-7.

In the Nov. 13 and 14 tournament, “Varsity and Novice worked together in seamless fashion to bring home numerous top awards in a very competitive 4A category,” Londe Gagnon said. “We recognize the challenges everyone is facing adapting to new circumstances each week and could not be happier with their efforts. It’s going to be an amazing year.”

In addition to the strong team showings, individual members have registered impressive podium finishes. Senior Josh Hansen, one of the team captains, finished first in at least one event both weeks, compiling wins in Congressional Debate and Public Forum Debate, an event he and co-captain Preston Harmon have won twice now.

In the Nov. 22-23 tournament, Harmon and Hansen tied with teammates Will Aepli and Lily Briggs in the Public Forum Debate.

Both weeks, Jackson Hole students made up the entire podium for Congressional Debate. Hansen and Briggs each took first place in the event once, and Aepli and Carter Worcester also found the podium.

Jackson students also saw success in a variety of other events. Aepli took first as an individual in Public Forum Debate at the T-Bird Classic at Casper College, and Harmon won the Extemporaneous Speaking category in the Evanston tournament.

From freshman to senior, members left their marks on the season’s first tournaments, as well as at the novice-only competition. As the team adjusts to the videoconference format, its depth looks to stake it a chance to hang in any competition this year.

“The strength of the team continues to grow,” co-coach Peggy Gagnon said in a press release. “We think the talent and support the team showed this weekend was extraordinary and we anticipate a very promising upcoming season.”

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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