Speech and debate team coach Deb Fink couldn’t be more pleased with how her students did at the 41st Annual Trapper Rendezvous Tournament for high schools held on the campus of Northwest College in Powell Jan. 6-7. The combined team includes students from both Lovell High School and Rocky Mountain High School.
The highly competitive meet in Powell attracted students from both Wyoming and Montana and, according to Fink, the Montana students had a “leg up” since their season started weeks before the season began in Wyoming. It was the fifth meet for most of the Montana students, the second meet for Wyoming students.
“I was really pleased,” said Fink. “We did really well with Montana being at the end of their season and this being only our second meet. I think we did really well.”
Randy Carter and Mesa Matthews made it to the semi-finals with their duet. The two performed their version of the children’s book “The Magic Well,” by Herman Mann. Their presentation lasted around nine minutes.
“They (Montana) have different rules than we do,” explained Matthews. “We aren’t allowed to have both feet leave the ground and they are allowed to leap over people and jump more. They can also sing more than we can. So, judges who don’t know the rules might like their piece better because they can do more.”
Carter and Matthews expressed no regrets about the Wyoming rules.
“We felt that we shouldn’t be judged on singing,” explained Carter, who is an accomplished singer. “This isn’t a singing contest; it’s a speaking contest. It’s not a contest of who can sing over who can’t sing. It’s about speaking.”
The Birkholz twins, Emily and Elizabeth, also made it to the semi-finals with their performance of a duet based on the Broadway play “Wicked,” which is an adaptation from the classic children’s book “The Wizard of Oz.”
It’s a humorous piece set in a college atmosphere.
“Since we’re twins, we get along really well,” said Elizabeth. “We really flow. Even the judges commented on it.”
Emily also placed third in the poetry competition reading the poetry “For Eli” and “See through” written by human rights activist Andrea Gibson.
“When I performed these at our first meet, they sounded kind of angry and yelling,” said Birkholz. “I decided in this meet to play the role in a different way, more like a concerned person reading to a kid.”
Birkholz said she was exhausted after several readings of such an emotional topic. Like others, she performed her piece before a different set of judges each time.
“If you don’t present something like this with your whole heart and soul it’s going to come off as phony,” she explained. “So, you do physically feel tired afterward. My piece was eight minutes and 45 seconds. That’s a long time to be emotional like that.”
Birkholz was surprised when she made it to the final round. She wasn’t expecting to do so well against so many other good pieces she saw performed at the semi-final stage of the competition.
“I was really surprised because I saw so many good pieces that were presented in a way that was so tasteful and well-done,” said Birkholz. “I think everyone on that stage deserved to be there. The pieces that took first and second place where phenomenal.”
Freshman Cole Moncur made it to within one point of semi-finals. This is Moncur’s first year on the team. He used the words from three songs about drug addiction and the effect it has on relationships in the poetry division.
“I knew it was a competitive meet. I knew I had to bring my end game,” said Moncur.
Moncur performed his piece, which lasted six minutes, for three rounds. Although this is only his first year in the program, he feels it has been a valuable experience so far.
“I don’t think you’ll find many speech kids mumbling or being afraid to go up in front of a class to read a report or anything like that,” said Moncur. “I think it helps in your everyday life to be part of this.”
The team will compete at a meet in Worland on Jan. 20-21. Fink thinks this will be a less competitive meet than the one in Powell and expects to see her students do well.
“The schools will all be on the same level,” explained Fink. “We will all be on our third or fourth meet and the rules will be the same across the board because it will only be Wyoming schools. It will be a level playing field.”
Fink hopes her students will take away something from the experience of being on the speech and debate team that they can use all of their lives.
“It’s just starting here,” said Fink. “They can go a long way with what they are learning here.”
By Patti Carpenter