Lovell High School and Rocky Mountain High School have combined their talent once again to form a speech/debate team headed by Coach Deb Fink, who will be assisted this year by Jason Zeller.
Around 20 students have signed up for the team, and are already working hard to perfect their presentations in preparation for a season of fierce competition against speakers from schools across Wyoming and from neighboring states like Montana, Idaho and Colorado.
About a dozen of the team’s members competed in their first meet this past weekend in Thermopolis, hosted jointly by Thermopolis and Shoshoni, appropriately called the Thershoni Invitational Speech Meet. Five students were novices, competing for their very first time in a meet.
“This is a learning experience for everyone, especially the novices,” said Fink. “I think they learned an awful lot. I think they learned that there are a lot of situations that are going to come up that they aren’t ready for.”
Fourth year participant Emily Birkholz made it to the final round, where she placed third after reciting poetry for the judges for about eight minutes. Students were not allowed to speak more than 10 minutes.
She recited two poems by anti-war activist Andrea Gibson. Birkholz selected the poetry by Gibson because she liked the message behind it.
“I think in a time like the 20th century there is no place for racism, for bias and I honestly think we should be beyond war at this point,” said Birkholz.
Birkholz will continue perfecting her delivery of the poems between now and her next meet, and hopes to place either first or second the next time around.
She is also working on a duet with her twin sister Elizabeth. The duet is a humorous piece based on the character of the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz.
According to Fink, most of the students will be working on at least two pieces and performing them throughout the season, which just began a few short weeks ago.
Novice speaker Cole Moncur also made it to the finals at the meet, where he placed fifth. For his presentation, Moncur recited lyrics from the popular songs “Pothead” by Daniel Johnson, “White Rabbit” by Grace Slick, “The House that Dripped Blood” and “No Children” by the Mountain Goats.
Moncur hopes to “engage” the audience more next time he recites the lyrics and to “inject more emotion” into his presentation.
“When I’m in front of everyone and I’m completely comfortable and the words are just flowing out without even trying, then I’ll know I’ve reached my goal,” said Moncur.
He is also working on a duet with his fellow team member Dylan May.
Novice speaker Wray Krei also made it to the finals at the meet but didn’t place this time around.
Randy Carter and Mesa Mathews performed a comical duet at the meet.
“The first round we messed up on our lines,” said Carter, “but in other rounds we got better.”
Carter hopes that practicing without using the book will help them memorize their story in preparation for upcoming meets.
“Once we get our words memorized we will add different actions to it and change our voices whenever we can to make it funny and entertaining for the audience,” explained Carter.
Mary Schwope is a sophomore at RMHS; this is her second year participating on the team.
“I love meeting everybody at the meets and this helps me with my speaking skills,” she said.
Schwope is also active in 4-H and thinks the two activities combined help develop her social skills.
“There is a lot of gratification for them when they actually get up and speak in front of someone,” said Fink, “when they’ve made it through the first round and when the second round comes around and they are ready to go.”
Student Adam Larson commented, “It teaches you how to make a speech to people and how to make your point.”
The next meet is the annual Trapper Rendezvous Tournament for High Schools at Northwest College in Powell Jan. 6-7.
“This is a huge meet with a lot of Montana schools participating,” said Fink. “And, they are at the end of their season, so there will be some hard competition there.”
Fink hopes the meet at Northwest College will give her students a taste of what the state level competition will be like.
By Patti Carpenter