Battle Mountain speech and debate team members are headed to the national meet |

Battle Mountain speech and debate team members are headed to the national meet

From left, Brooke Weller, Hailea Stone, Sam Litt and Luke McKeever with the Battle Mountain High School speech team qualified for the nationals later this month. The four are a record number of Battle Mountain qualifiers for nationals. Battle Mountain has sent someone to nationals in each of the last three years.
Randy Wyrick| |

EDWARDS — Battle Mountain is a speech and debate school. Everyone else is just trying to keep up.

A Battle Mountain speech and debater has qualified for the nationals three straight years. This year’s four-person contingent — Luke McKeever and Brooke Weller in duo interpretation, Hailea Stone in original oratory, and Sam Litt in informative speaking — is a record.

It’s the first trip to nationals for all four, and hopefully not the last. They’re all back for coach Diane Wagener’s Battle Mountain team next year.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Hailea Stone is competing with original material about bullying, an issue that has affected her.

“It borrows a bit from the movie ‘The Karate Kid’ and my personal experience with tae kwon do, and relates it all to bullying,” Stone said.

She’s a black belt with Inyodo Martial Arts in Edwards.

“It needs to come to an end,” she said of bullying in all forms. “I experienced bullying in elementary and middle school. It kind of stopped in high school, but those other kids who don’t have a voice, I’m trying to provide them that voice.”

The black belt gave her confidence to make it stop. She has never had to use it outside the dojo.

However, “I will if I have to defend myself,” she said.

She starts lighthearted with statistics, but each statistic is a person who’s a bullying victim, which she makes crystal clear as her piece runs the spectrum from comedy to tragedy.


Sam Litt is competing in informative speaking, the first year for the event. He’s informing people about gravity and how gravity equals equality.

“Because we’re all pulled to earth by gravity, we’re all equal,” Litt said.

His speech is meant to inform, not necessarily to persuade, he said. So he draws the audience in and before they realize it, they’re learning something they weren’t expecting.

It starts with all the stuff you learned in school and about halfway through does a 180-degree pivot and dives into what gravity teaches us about the human condition and the fact that we don’t always learn those lessons because gravity is always there and we forget about it so easily.

Hyperbole and a Half

Luke McKeever and Brooke Weller attend Vail Mountain School and compete for Battle Mountain. Their duo interpretation is based on the book “Hyperbole and a Half,” by Allie Brosh, hilarious stories about life’s mishaps from Brosh’s immensely popular blog Hyperbole and a Half.

“You know all those awful thoughts that flash through your head and you try not to act on them? Luke is my subconscious (acting out everything) and I’m Allie Brosh,” Weller said.

“As her subconscious, often, I don’t think my input is really that helpful,” McKeever joked. (He’s right. He’s not.) “Which is the point of the piece.”

McKeever pops out from behind her and says the most random things, completely unrelated to what she’s doing, much like your very own brain.

“In you mind, you’re never controlling what your subconscious is thinking. It just thinks,” McKeever said.

There’s a section — and it really is hilarious — when McKeever is trying to come up with ways to talk Weller’s character out of donating one of her kidneys to her mother.

It’s also complex. Material has to come from a published book and they can change 150 words. That’s it. Most of theirs were changing dark blue words to appropriate words.

“From there you boil it down to a seven-minute to 10-minute piece,” McKeever said.

The humor is sophisticated and tends to be universal.

“In the existence of every single person, they’ve thought the things we talk about,” McKeever said.

Last year was McKeever’s first year. He didn’t want to do anything by himself, so he did duo interpretation.

Weller had never done speech and debate before this year, and when time constraints forced McKeever’s former partner to make a tough choice, he turned to his buddy Weller. She thought about it for an amount of time so small it’s normally measurable only in theoretical physics experiments.

“I said, ‘Sure!’” Weller said.

And in her first year, she’s headed to the nationals. That makes Weller the Rookie of the Year.

“Rookie of the Year? How about Brookie of the Year?” McKeever wisecracked.

Road to nationals

To get to nationals, you have to compete in enough meets throughout the season to qualify for the state meet.

At states they competed in two rounds on Friday and a couple more rounds on Saturday. Then they wait. Saturday night the results roll in.

At states you have to reach the semifinals to advance to the national qualifiers, where you have to win to get to the national meet, June 12-17, in Salt Lake City.

“You compete for about 10 minutes, then watch other people for the other 50 minutes. Then you wait for to compete in the next round, if there is a next round for you,” Litt said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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