The Jackson Hole High School Speech and Debate Team found incredible success this past weekend at the National Speech and Debate Association’s District Tournament, held March 16-18, at Casper College. The meet was attended by 18 schools. Seniors Kyler Arriola, Mataya Foster, Juniors Ellie Dunn, Aaron Trauner and Freshman Maleah Tuttle will represent the Wind River NSDA District this June as they travel to Birmingham, Alabama to compete against the best in the nation at the National Tournament. This is the twentieth consecutive year and the thirtieth overall year the team has qualified students for the national meet.
Public Forum Debate proved to be a Jackson strength as the team of Foster and Trauner achieved qualifying status. They spent the weekend debating the question of whether or not the United States should stop pressuring for a two state solution for Israel. The debaters navigated through the double elimination tournament despite an early loss. They ended up with a win/loss record of 6-1, tying with the other top two teams from Natrona County and Rock Springs to earn their bid to Nationals.
Trauner went on to qualify in Congressional Debate by placing first in his chamber of competition. This event presented the greatest odds for qualifying with under five percent of the 102 entries reaching qualifying status. Trauner competed for 6 hours on Thursday to earn the honor of qualifier. He would also be attending Nationals this summer in Congressional Debate but for the rule preventing qualifiers from competing in more than one event.
Team captain, Arriola earned his qualifying slot in Program Oral Interpretation, an event that combines dramatic, prose, and poetic selections into one ten minute presentation. Arriola’s performance entitled, “Rethinking the Renaissance, a Program About Shakespeare’s Influence” garnered him a first place finish in a field of 28 competitors.
Dunn qualified for the trip to Birmingham in Foreign Extemporaneous Speaking. Besides her competition on Thursday where she earned 9th place in her chamber of Congressional Debate, Dunn competed in 13 rounds on Friday and Saturday. Dunn was rewarded with bid to Nationals in Lincoln Douglas Debate as well, but prefers to compete in Alabama in Foreign Extemporaneous Speaking.
Tuttle battled her way through 6 rounds before qualifying for Nationals in Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking. The entire tournament is based on a double elimination model. With any placement below third place considered a “down,” and two downs being the basis for elimination, a student must be at the top of their game in order to qualify. Tuttle rose to the challenge and is the first freshman that the JHHS team has qualified to the National Tournament since 1996 when Trevor Houser earned a spot in Lincoln Douglas Debate.
Arriola also brought Jackson one of the greatest honors of the weekend. Arriola was the runner up for the Wind River District Student of the Year Award. This award, based on coach voting, recognizes the student who demonstrates strong academic standards, is actively engaged in their community through service and action and exhibits dedication to speech and the values held by the National Speech and Debate Association. Peggy Gagnon, who coaches the team with Londe Gagnon, reflected, “For our team, Kyler’s honor is a highlight of the tournament this year. Our entire team has earned the respect of coaches and students across the state for the professional way they carry themselves at tournaments.”
Other weekend success was gained by senior Adrienne Sugarman who earned the title of 2nd alternate in Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking and 3rd alternate in Program Oral Interpretation. Freshman Jake Todd and sophomore Samantha Smith added to the success with their 7th and 8th place finishes, respectively, in Congressional Debate.
The JHHS team as a whole, earned fourth in the debate sweepstakes, fifth in the congress sweepstakes and sixth in the speech events sweepstakes at the tournament.
The 2017 Birmingham Nationals will be held June 18-23. Top competitors from across the country will gather to determine the national champion in each forensic event. The National Speech and Debate Association is an honor society that “promotes interscholastic debate, oratory, and public speaking by encouraging a spirit of fellowship and by conferring upon deserving candidates a worthy badge of distinction.” As Gagnon observed, “Our entire team represents the qualities the NSDA strives to achieve. All five Jackson students will be exemplary ambassadors in Alabama this summer.” The Wind River District includes all Wyoming high schools west of I-25. At Casper competitors traveled from Casper Natrona and Kelly Walsh, Cody, Rock Springs, Douglas, Laramie, Lander, Riverton, Lovell, Green River, Worland, Saratoga, Star Valley, Evanston, Greybull, Rawlins, Hot Springs and Jackson to compete.