EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - You may never slam dunk again, but when you're smart you're smart forever.That's what it's like to be part of this year's Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley's high school speech and debate teams.Local high school speech and debate teams went head to head 275 individual and duet team competitors from 22 schools. When the rhetoric cooled, they needed a U-Haul to truck away all the hardware they won.Battle Mountain had more students make it into the top six final round than any other school in the state, and in several events had two competitors or teams in the finals, said coach Diane Wagener said."My advice to any adults who think the future is doomed is to attend a speech and debate tournament. These kids are amazing," Wagener said.Eagle Valley coach Mary Ann Stavney had 40 kids on this year's team and took 30 to state. She had more kids in more events reaching first, second or third."Not only do we have more kids participating, we have more kids participating at a higher level," Stavney said.Eagle Valley's numbers won't drop anytime soon. Stavney's public speaking class has 28 kids in it.Battle Mountain took 25 kids to the state meet. To go they have to compete in five tournaments.Wagener went through the list. This year, Battle Mountain sent more kids to finals than any of the 21 schools there, and 11 Battle Mountain kids made the finals, Wagener said. To make the finals you have to be in the top six after three rounds.If you get a loss in the three rounds, you don't get to go to finals. "It's pretty cut-throat. They love it. They thrive on it," Wagener said.If the Colorado High School Activities Association calculated team points for the state meet the way they do it at the tournament level, Battle Mountain would be the sweepstakes winners, the state champion, Wagener said.Real debate, real benefitsThe programs pay immediate and real benefits, Stavney said. For example, it can help push kids to better colleges."They carry these skills with them as they move through life," Stavney said. "The level of debate is significantly accelerated and I'm excited about that."Value debate, for example, takes some sort of international or national issue, usually specific to high school kids. It might be something as simple as school uniforms, or something as complex as drug testing.Competitors are given a few minutes to compose arguments both pro and con. They don't get to know which side they'll debate until the event begins.Unlike the inflamed rhetoric that surrounds most political campaign debate, debaters are penalized for bonehead statement.In other words, "students who demonstrate poor ethics are marked down," Stavney said diplomatically.They learn the value of preparation, and a little about success and failure, and how that can sometimes be a bit arbitrary.The preliminary rounds are handled by one judge, which can be a problem if your subject matter and presentation doesn't tickle that judge's fancy. Every weekend it can bring the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.Eagle Valley's Dylan Trudeau and Battle Mountain's Shannon Overcash have been going back and forth all season.He happened to win at the state meet.They'll probably meet again. They'll take a short break this month, then begin preparing for next month's qualifying rounds for the national tournament. It's this summer in Alabama.Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.